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A deserved shitstorm of Shell Nigerian litigation

A boatload of heavily armed Shell employees? Photograph: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

Shell is facing what Americans might describe as a shitstorm of lawsuits arising from its Nigerian activities since the 1950’s. Litigation is current or pending in Nigeria, the USA, Italy, the UK and the Netherlands.

According to Wikipedia, shitstorm is a vulgar dysphemism for a chaotic and unpleasant situation. It does seem appropriate in a reputational nightmare of Shell’s own making. Related human rights allegations against Shell and the evil Nigerian regimes it has supported include torture, murder, toxic pollution, spying and corruption on a grand scale.

Shell’s record of mafia type behaviour in Nigeria includes arming and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to rival militant gangs. Is Shell paying to stop the oil spills, or cause them, knowing that crimping production would drive up the price of oil? See below.

In relation to the current UK lawsuit, a Shell spokesman says: “Both Bille and Ogale are areas heavily impacted by crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining which remain the main sources of pollution across the Niger Delta. We are contesting the jurisdiction of the English court over these claims.”

In June 2009 we reported that a Shell Nigeria insider had disclosed to us that senior colleagues had a commercial relationship with militant leaders of gangs carrying out attacks on Shell employees, pipelines and installations. We established that the source was authentic. Indeed, I discovered that The Financial Times had already confirmed the basics of our source’s allegations (see “Shell gives Nigerian work to Militant companies”).

There were two possible interpretations.

The first being that Shell entered into the murky dealings against the backdrop of a very difficult situation and with the worthy objective of keeping the oil flowing, believing this would be in the best overall interests of Nigeria and Shell stakeholders, including Shell Nigeria employees.

The less attractive possibility is that there is much more money to be made by Shell on a global basis by stemming oil flow from Nigeria than in keeping it flowing. Production cuts due to militant attacks take place with alarming frequency. It only takes a small crimp in the oil pipeline applied on a regular basis to drive up the global oil price and keep it at a high level, thereby generating billions of extra dollars in annual profits.

The same subject – Shell getting into bed with the militants – has been covered in a document released by Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

From page 13 of “Royal Dutch Shell and its sustainability troubles” – Background report to the Erratum of Shell’s Annual Report 2010

The report is made on behalf of Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands)
Author: Albert ten Kate: May 2011.

Co-opting militants

In 2006, it became clear that some of the militant leaders linked to the attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta earn tens of thousands of dollars from contracts with Shell. Leaders of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), involved with violent activities in Delta State in 2003, later ran contracting companies working with the oil majors. The payments included “incident free” bonuses. Officials told the Financial Times that subcontracting work to local strongmen is one method some oil companies have used to buy off militants threatening attacks on oil facilities in the Delta.61

In September 2008, the Shell Executive Vice President (EVP) for Shell Companies in Africa, Ms. Ann Pickard, said that Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi lacked the connections among Rivers State militant leaders to successfully co-opt them as the governors in Delta and Bayelsa states have done with militants in their states.62

Co-opting militants seems to be one of the tactics to (temporary) reduce conflict. However, it can also be seen as a measure that serves conflict and corruption.

THE COMPLETE 73 PAGE REPORT (with reference sources)


Shell ‘co-opting’ Nigerian militants: 21 May 2011

Nigerian activists allege Shell involved in Ogoniland assassinations: 23 February 2011

WikiLeaks: Cable reveals Shell funded Nigerian rebels ‘peace camp’: 26 January 2011

Shell’s Sinister Relationship with Nigerian Militants: 1 July 2009

Shell, Nigeria, Militant Attacks, and the Escalating Price of Oil: 18 June 2009

Correspondence 11 June 2008 with Royal Dutch Shell Company Secretary Michiel Brandjes: Acquisition of Arms and Ammunition in Nigeria: 11 June 2008


Shell, Nigeria and the Record Price of Oil: 7 March 2008

Reuters report pipeline dynamited in Nigeria but were the culprits working for Shell?: 15 November 2007

Blogger News Network: Is Shell skulduggery in Nigeria pumping up global oil prices?: 18 July 2007

Financial Times: WORLD NEWS: Shell gives Nigerian work to militants’ companies: 27 April 2006

THE ABOVE ARTICLE INCLUDES EXTENSIVE INFORMATION WE HAVE PUBLISHED PREVIOUSLY. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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