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Shell in Nigerian arms controversy

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By Rob Davies

PUBLISHED: 22:00, 16 August 2013 | UPDATED: 22:00, 16 August 2013

Shell lobbied the Government to send millions of pounds of weapons to Nigeria that may have fallen into the hands of militants guilty of human rights abuses, a report has warned.

Oil theft in Nigeria cost Shell some £460million in its last set of quarterly results and the Anglo-Dutch firm has sought Government help to deal with the fragile security situation in the West African county.

But sending weapons to Nigerian security forces risks further destabilising a dangerous situation, said campaign group Platform.

The UK has spent close to £12million in military aid to Nigeria since 2001, according to a Freedom of Information request, including on machine guns and other weaponry.

SPDC, Shell’s joint venture with the Nigerian government, also provides funding to the Joint Task Force, a military-police squad that helps protect its pipelines and rigs. And according to Platform, Shell lobbied the UK and US governments to increase military aid to Nigeria.

Minutes of a meeting between Shell’s Malcolm Brinded and the Foreign Office in 2006 state that Shell was ‘keen to see HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] looking for further opportunities to assist Nigeria with Niger Delta security and governance’.

The amount of military aid from the Government to Nigeria subsequently increased, helping offset Shell’s own costs in Nigeria. But Platform warned that no measures were put in place to prevent arms falling into the hands of militant warlords and human rights abusers.

The group cited local sources who warned it was impossible to tell where weapons provided by the UK to help protect Shell eventually ended up.

‘It is common knowledge that soldiers and policemen sell arms to people who need them at give-away price,’ said one.

Platform said some weapons even ended up in the hands of rebel groups who have attacked Shell facilities. Government officials were also unable to confirm whether Nigerians who received military training paid for by the Government were screened for human rights abusers.

A spokesman for Shell (up 16.5p to 2049p) said SPDC was keen to see the country sign up to international human rights principles.

The spokesman added that security operations in the Niger Delta were a response to ‘organised criminal oil theft and illegal refining’.

Sarah Shoraka of Platform said: ‘Taxpayers are funding a policy that supports repressive troops and subsidises the operating costs of oil giants like Shell.’

SOURCE

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