Staff of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the Nigerian unit of Hague-based Royal Dutch Shell, coordinated the rupturing of oil pipelines to benefit from the money spent on clean-up of the mess, a Dutch TV documentary has revealed.
Zembla, a Dutch documentary programme done in collaboration with environmental organisation Milieudefensie, reported that “multiple witnesses declared that SPDC, a subsidiary of Shell” has staff that planned deliberate oil spills.
“According to sources, Shell employees profit from these intentional oil leaks by pocketing money from clean up budgets,” Zembla disclosed in a press statement summing up an 18-month investigation of different leaks from 2010 till now.
Zembla observed that SPDC and the Dutch embassy in Nigeria knew of the accusations but did not take actions to address them.
Nigeria has a bad name for oil spillage, making energy firms like Shell a subject of criticism and protest from human rights and environmental groups.
The Niger Delta has been the victim of millions of litres of oil spillage right from when Shell commenced extraction there in 1958. According to Zembla, “greatest oil disaster in the world is unfolding in the Niger Delta.”
“According to Shell, 95% of the leaks are a result of sabotage. The oil company denies any responsibility for these. The perpetrators of these leaks are said to be local criminals and organized gangs.
“Now, Shell employees themselves are accused of being a part of a perverse industry of deliberate leakage. Zembla verified all of this and interviewed the sources on camera,” said the producing company, BNNVARA.
“Shell employees persuade local youths to vandalize the pipelines. If a cleanup is necessary, these same youths are then hired to perform it,” a Niger Delta local told Zembla.
“And then they split the money from the cleanup. The recovery department from Shell sabotages the pipelines. If the cleanup will take seven months, they’ll stop after only three months.”
State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said in January that over 45,300 oil pipeline breaches were recorded from 2001 to mid-2019.
“Unfortunately, the combination of crude oil theft, illegal refining and pipeline vandalism, has become a major threat to Nigeria in meeting its revenue projections in recent time,” said Mele Kyari, NNPC’s Group Managing Director.
A Port Harcourt-based contractor who has dealt with oil firms for almost two decades told Arbiterz that it is an open secret amongst industry insiders that employees of oil companies work with militants in oil-producing communities to “stage” oil spills.
The purpose is sometimes to embezzle funds budgeted for compensating farmers affected by oil spills which may be as much as $2 million per annum. He said half-jokingly that the solution might be for the oil firms to stop providing funds for cleaning up spills or compensating farmers for oil spill in their annual budget, suggesting that this may eliminate “the determination to spend the budget by any means possible”.