Shell accused of funding violence in Niger Delta

 George Frankling

4 October 2011, Sweetcrude, Lagos- A new report released on Monday by a London-based oil and gas industry watchdog, Platform, has accused Shell of fueling armed conflicts that resulted in the killing of about 60 persons in the Niger Delta region.

The Platform report revealed among other charges, that Shell paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to feuding militant groups as well as government forces that attacked, tortured and killed Nigerians living in the creeks and swamplands in the region.

However, in swift reaction, Shell Petroleum Development Company denied the claims, adding that suggestions it directs or controls Nigerian military activities were completely untrue.

In the Platform report published by UK-based The Guardian newspaper, the 75-page report implicated Shell in a decade of human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, adding that Shell’s “routine payments exacerbated local violence, in one case leading to the deaths of 60 people and the destruction of an entire town”.

Platform’s investigation, which includes testimony from Shell’s own managers, also alleges that government forces hired by Shell perpetrated atrocities against local civilians, including unlawful killings and systematic torture.

Shell, according to the report, disputed the allegation, defending its human rights record and questioning the accuracy of the evidence, but has pledged to study the recommendations.

Reacting to the claims, a Shell spokesman insaid: “Shell respects human rights throughout the world. Our Code of Conduct prescribes the high ethical standards that all our staff are expected to maintain. We support the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, and we recognize that these principles help maintain the safety and security of our operations in a manner consistent with upholding human rights. We also investigate grievances under the VPSHR.”

“We are committed to working with the government and people of Nigeria to ensure that the country benefits from its natural resources. Good relations with host communities are very important to SPDC. We however recognize that working in the Niger Delta presents significant challenges, including those of security and community relations,” the spokesman added.

He said further that Shell had long acknowledged that the legitimate payments we make to contractors, as well as the social investments we make in the Niger Delta region may cause friction in and between communities.

“In view of the high rate of criminal violence in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government, as majority owner of oil facilities, deploys Government Security Forces to protect people and assets. Suggestions in the report that SPDC directs or controls military activities are therefore completely untrue.

“It is unfortunate that Platform has repeated several old cases, some of which are unsubstantiated and some proven inaccurate, because doing so obscures the good work which has been going on for many years. However, we will carefully examine its recommendations and look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the Nigerian government and other stakeholders to find solutions to these issues.”

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