Employees of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, have been accused of orchestrating damage to oil pipelines to profit from the money spent on clean-up operations.
A Dutch investigative TV programme, Zembla, reported on Thursday that SPDC employees recruited local youths to sabotage the pipelines and then hired them back as workers to clean up the mess.
The report cited research by a Dutch environmental group, Milieudefensie, according to Reuters.
Shell officials and the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria were made aware of the matter by local leaders in 2018, but did not act on those warnings, Zembla said.
Milieudefensie said in a statement on Thursday that its research centred on the village of Ikarama, where it said there had been 30 spills in the last 13 years.
“The majority of the leaks in Ikarama were the result of instructions given by Shell Nigeria employees,” it said.
The profit made on the cleaning operations was split between SPDC employees and the youths, Zembla said, citing statements provided to police and Nigeria’s Ikarama Youth Council by witnesses and people who said they or their family members had taken part.
The programme did not provide any figures on how much profit was allegedly made.
A spokesperson for SPDC, in an emailed statement to PUNCH, said the company did not have any formal report of named SPDC staff members or contractors involved in pipeline vandalism or crude oil theft.
“SPDC, like other Shell companies globally, investigates all credible reports it receives of misconduct or unethical behaviour and takes robust action where evidence exists,” he said.
According to him, the SPDC has multiple ways the public can report allegations of wrongdoing by anyone working for SPDC, including a 24/7 telephone and email helpline.
He said, “SPDC also monitors its joint venture facilities and any incident or suspected criminal activities are promptly reported to the regulators and government security agencies for investigation and possible prosecution.”
Pipeline sabotage is a major source of pollution in the Niger Delta.
In 2019, SPDC said it had seen a 41 per cent rise in the number of crude oil spills caused by theft or pipeline sabotage, according to Reuters.