- Residents Reveal As Global Environmentalists Carpet Oil Giant
There is more to the endless oil spills ravaging communities in the Nigeria’s Niger Delta region than meets the eye.
A new investigation into the spills revealed that employees of Shell Nigeria, overseeing the Nigerian operations of the Royal-Dutch Shell Company are orchestrating the oil spills, bursting pipelines to earn money from the ongoing clean-up programme.
A report by Milieudefensie, a Dutch environmentalist organisation in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) alleges that shell employees have been ordering locals to sabotage oil installations. This is far from the popular belief that the regular vandalization in the region is a pure act of the vandals alone or only linked to militants’ agitation.
Titled: ‘Traces of Shell in Nigeria’s Oil Spills,’ the report verified by independent journalists was aired on a Dutch television documentary programme, Zembla, Thursday.
According to the content of the report made available to The New Diplomat, the oil spill clean-ups are often organised by Shell in such a way that the oil spills seem to generate income for the local population, as well as fill the pockets of shell employees with ‘blood money’ to the detriment of communities already in ruins.
Milieudefensie was quoted in the report to have said: “Shell Nigeria is aware of all this but is not doing anything about it.
“Shell employees are themselves involved in these oil spills in Nigeria. This directly contradicts the picture that Shell itself paints, in which the responsibility for the spills is placed on the rebels. For this research, multiple people have been interviewed extensively.”
Exposing how Shell employees coordinate the spills as stated in the report: “the involved Ikarama residents (in Bayelsa state) in the Niger Delta not only confirm that Shell employees hire residents to perpetrate spills, but also claim that everyone in the village has been approached. Many people are sensitive to this issue, because their fields and fishponds are often too polluted by oil to earn a living from.
“Someone who is hungry,’ a representative from the Ikarama community pointed out, ‘is someone who consents.”
Oil exploration by Shell in Nigeria is as old as the country itself as the oil giant drilled through Nigeria’s first oil well in Oloibiri, Bayelsa in 1958, just two years before the imperialists left the country’s shore in 1960.
For over six decades, oil spills have been a recurring decimal in the Niger Delta, with most of the accusing fingers directed at Shell, following its past and current environmental atrocities in the oil-rich region, which has continued to spark international backlash amid several court cases in countries.
The company has often claimed that 95% of the spills are caused by act of sabotage in an endless cycle of denial.
“SPDC takes these kinds of accusations very seriously. If we find any evidence that supports these accusations, we will report it to the Nigerian authorities,” SPDC said while reacting to the report according to Zembla’s statement.
But far from what the oil multinational claimed, ERA/FoEN said Shell employees are working in cahoot with locals and clean up companies to burst pipelines and make selfish gains.
“Shell employees, residents and clean-up companies are thus all working together. The employee points out where and when a spill should occur. It is usually young people who perpetrate the spills.
“Then a Shell employee hires a clean-up company from among the perpetrator’s acquaintances and afterwards, they divide the profits among themselves. At least 30 oil spills have been recorded in the Ikarama area over the past 10 years,” ERA/FoEN said.
The report narrated key moments that allegedly establish that Shell was aware of its staff’s complicity, noting that it should be Shell’s responsibility to protect the pipelines from the spills and not to allow its employees to act in a way to benefit from their attacks and the subsequent clean-ups of the spills.
As stated in the report, a former Shell security guard, who claimed to have been responsible for sabotaging pipelines in the past, said Shell supervisors and employees “split the money from the clean up”.
“The recovery department from Shell sabotages the pipelines. If the clean up will take seven months, they’ll stop after only three months,” he added.
Reacting to the report, Friends of the Earth Netherlands Director, Donald Pols: “Shell always claims it’s not their responsibility: global warming, earthquakes in Groningen, oil spills in Nigeria. This research shows for the umpteenth time that Shell should look in the mirror more often. The big question now is how many of the countless oil spills were caused by Shell employees and why does Shell management continue to point the finger at others.”
To ameliorate locals’ sufferings, the report recommended compensation for the local population for the destruction they have endured.
Acting Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Chima Williams said: “These disturbing findings have again confirmed what we have long suspected. Shell must own up to the destruction of the local community and made to pay heavily for these deliberate infractions”.
The New Diplomat recalls Milieudefensie had sued Shell back in 2008 for the oil pollution in Nigeria, in the first case ever involving a Dutch corporation being held accountable for environmental pollution in a foreign country. The verdict of the appeal is expected to be delivered on January 29, 2021 after twelve years of back and forth at the court on the monumental pollution matter.