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Shell: security spending or dirty work?

Shell: security spending or dirty work?

Published on : 23 August 2012 – 11:49am | By Saskia Houttuin (Photos: AFP/ANP)

Leaked documents show that Dutch-British oil and gas company Shell financed Nigeria’s security forces, which are often seen as corrupt and involved in human rights violations. A Dutch political party raised questions, calling Shell’s financing ‘irresponsible and unacceptable’.

The data, which was leaked by a former Shell employee, has been analysed by the British organisation Platform, in a document entitled “Dirty Work: Shell’s security spending in Nigeria and beyond”. The report writes that Shell spent over a billion U.S. dollars on global security between 2007 and 2009. It says that, out of that amount, 383 million went to Nigeria, including the notorious ‘kill and go’ police, a nickname for the Nigerian Mobile police, says the report.

“We know there are close ties between Shell and the Nigerian government, while there is a consistent pattern of human rights violations in the Niger Delta area,” said Nicole Sprokel, spokesperson for Amnesty International. The NGO has done research on Shell’s activities in Nigeria and the role of the Joint Task Forces (JTF’s), a Nigerian army unit fighting against militant groups operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. Corporate accountability is highly valued by the NGO. “You would think Shell did some due diligence investigation” Sprokel added. “Making sure their partners are not a potential threat for human rights. But either they don’t know or they don’t want to know.”

Amnesty’s latest annual report states that “the security forces, including the military, continued to commit human rights violations in the Niger Delta, including extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, and destruction of homes.”

Adetokunbo Mumuni of Nigerian NGO SERAP told RNW that they “condemn any action or complicity of non-state actors like Shell that leads or contributes to human rights abuses. There must be full accountability for such human rights abuses. […]We are hoping that at least the Nigerian government can be held accountable for failure to exercise due diligence which has allowed multinationals such as Shell to continue perpetrate human rights abuses against millions of Nigerians. While Shell and others continue to make money out of Nigerian natural wealth and resources, millions of our people remain very poor without any opportunity to pursue personal development and growth”.

Not directly responsible
Shell has not confirmed nor denied Platform’s allegations. “In the period between 2007 and 2009 there was a lot of violence,” a Shell spokesman told RNW. “But Nigeria is not the same as the Netherlands. People look at the situation from a Western point of view. In any way, we try our best.” He went on saying that the fact that the Nigerian army and police are associated with violence should give more reason for Shell to keep its distance. “We are not directly responsible,” he said.

Dutch response
Calling Shell’s financing of the Nigerian army ‘irresponsible and unacceptable,’ Dutch labour party MPs have submitted their questions to two ministries: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that of Economic affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.

In their letter to the government, Labour MPs Frans Timmermans and Sjoera Dikkers call on the government to discuss the matter with the oil giant. They remind the government of the Netherlands’ responsibility as a participant of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. In their view, the government should adhere to these principles and ensure that the Nigerian government does the same. The Netherlands, they write, should insist that the Nigerian security forces funded by Shell protect rather than violate human rights.

Shell says it is waiting for the government’s response but seems undaunted. “It’s not the first time this happens to Shell,” the spokesperson told RNW.



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