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NGOs slam Shell over Nigerian oil spills

THE HAGUE, Jan 26, 2011 – Environmental groups accused Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell on Wednesday of destroying lives and the environment through its operations in the Niger Delta, and urged Dutch MPs to take action.

"When will you stop treating people in Nigeria differently than you treat people in the Netherlands? When will you stop applying double standards?" Veert Ritsema of the NGO Milieudefensie asked Shell at a parliamentary committee hearing in The Hague into oil spills in Nigeria.

He accused the company, which has been operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta for more than 50 years, of "systematic pollution and contempt for people\’s lives", and urged lawmakers not to accept Shell\’s excuses.

"Shell will try to argue here today that it is not these people (of the Niger Delta) who are the victims, but they themselves — the victims of a corrupt government, victims of sabotage. This claim lacks any credibility," he said.

Sunny Ofehe Hope for Niger Delta Campaign, told the committee that Shell was welcomed to the area with open arms and local communities celebrated the discovery of the first oil.

"More than 50 years after, what we see today is a revolution that has galvanised the youth to take up arms against the same oil companies that made promises to us but couldn\’t deliver.

"We have seen our environment destroyed by the oil companies trying to make profit. What we have today in the Niger Delta are swamps, polluted. Our major occupation, fishing and farming, has been taken away from us," said Ofehe.

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Many people suffered from lung diseases and leukemia linked to the pollution, he claimed.

Ritsema urged MPs to use their influence to make sure that Shell is made to "use its considerable profits from Nigeria to maintain the pipelines in a much better state than they are now, to secure the pipelines to prevent sabotage, to stop oil flares."

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Nigeria, the eight largest oil exporter, recorded at least 3,000 oil spills between 2006 and June last year, Environment Minister John Odey has said.

Shell was to brief the committee later Wednesday.

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