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Criminal network robbing Nigeria of oil wealth

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 3rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Nigeria's substantial oil wealth has been severely compromised by a sophisticated criminal network that steals petroleum to sell to international traders. "Crime scenes" where massive amounts of oil have been unlawfully purloined has left rivers of oil contaminating water supplies. It's estimated that Nigerian oil companies are losing as much as $1 billion a month.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nigeria's Bayelsa State has been hard hit by clandestine oil smuggling. Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company's Nigerian subsidiary has reported that between 150,000 and 180,000 barrels of oil are stolen from its pipelines and wells.

International traders then provide the stolen oil at discounted prices to refineries in other parts of the world.

Al Jazeera correspondent Mohammed Adow has reported what he called "effectively a crime scene" and "rivers covered by thick films of oil" while on a helicopter tour of the region. "Vegetation in this once heavily forested region is also devastated by frequent spills and explosions," Adow said.

The men responsible for the rampant oil theft say they will cease their actions only if the government offers support to the people of the oil-rich region of western Africa.

"It's stealing, we know, but if the federal government can help us then we will leave this [work] entirely," self-proclaimed oil thief Ibegi Alakoroa in Bayelsa State says.
Amnesty International said investigations into Shell Oil spills have been fruitless, and alleges that the company repeatedly blamed sabotage in an effort to avoid responsibility.

"No matter what evidence is presented to Shell about oil spills, they constantly hide behind the 'sabotage' excuse and dodge their responsibility for massive pollution that is due to their failure to properly maintain their infrastructure," Director of Global Issues at Amnesty Audrey Gaughran said in a statement.

"The investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta is a fiasco," Gaughran said, referring to the region that is home to Africa's largest crude industry.

Furthermore, the London-based rights group accused the Anglo-Dutch oil giant of ignoring evidence that the latest spill in the Delta's Bodo Creek area, discovered in June, was caused by pipeline corrosion.

An official from Shell's Nigerian subsidiary has thus far declined to comment on the allegations.

In the statement, Amnesty said it hired the U.S. Company Accufacts to examine pictures of the Bodo Creek pipeline over the June spill.

Amnesty said it noticed a "layered loss of metal on the outside of the pipe," which is "a very familiar pattern" consistent with corrosion.

"Shell [has] said locally that the spill looks like sabotage, and they completely ignore the evidence of corrosion," Stevyn Obodoekwe of the Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development said.

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