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Nigeria oil spill payouts would encourage terrorism, Shell claims

Royal Dutch Shell has been forced to defend its record on oil spills and human rights in Nigeria in the face of a barrage of criticism before a panel of Dutch politicians.

Shell has been trying to sell up to $4bn of onshore oil assets in Nigeria for more than a year Photo: Alamy
Rowena Mason
By Rowena Mason 9:13PM GMT 26 Jan 2011

At a hearing in The Hague, Shell was bombarded with accusations from Amnesty International and other pressure groups who claim as many as 9m barrels have been spilt in the African nation since oil exploration began in the 1950s.

Not only are campaigners angry about alleged oil spills, but also pollution caused by flaring gas from drilling operations into the atmosphere.

On Wednesday, Shell executives insisted they would not pay compensation for up to 2,000 oil spills caused by sabotage.

The company has pledged to appeal a $100m (£63m) fine from a Nigerian court for a 40-year-old oil spill and blames an oversight from the country’s government. “When it comes to issues of the safety of people and crime, it’s the responsibility of the government. That’s not happening. But you can’t lay it on our doorstep,” said Peter de Wit, director of Shell Netherlands.

Ian Craig, Shell’s director for sub-Saharan Africa, said sabotage by Nigerian militants opposing drilling in the area is responsible for 70pc of oil spills in the troubled Niger Delta region. He said Shell compensates residents for pollution caused by pipeline corrosion or lack of maintenance. However, he said paying for sabotage would “incentivise” attacks.

Last year, Shell pledged to put $700m (£486m) towards phasing out the controversial practice of gas flaring at up to 75pc of its operations in Nigeria.

It emerged in US diplomatic cables released on the Wikileaks website last year that Shell’s Nigeria head, Ann Pickard, claimed to have infiltrated the country’s government. Shell said this statement was “absolutely untrue, false and misleading”.

The company has been trying to sell up to $4bn (£2.6bn) of onshore oil assets in Nigeria for more than a year.

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