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Nigeria downplays Shell infiltration

Dec. 9, 2010 at 7:55 AM

ABUJA, Nigeria, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Allegations that Royal Dutch Shell had access to "everything" in the Nigerian government were the opinions of one person, the government said.

The latest batch of documents released to London's Guardian newspaper by Internet watchdog group WikiLeaks indicates Royal Dutch Shell had positioned itself inside the Nigerian government.

Ann Pickard, who served as Shell's vice president for African affairs in 2009, allegedly made those claims during a meeting with Robin Sanders, the U.S. envoy to Nigeria, in October of last year.

"(Pickard) said the (government of Nigeria) had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries," the cable reads.

Levi Ajuonoma, a spokesman for state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., was quoted in London's Telegraph newspaper as saying the cable reflected the opinion of the U.S. envoy.

"Shell does not control the government of Nigeria and has never controlled the government of Nigeria," he said. "This cable is the mere interpretation of one individual."

The allegations come as Nigeria filed a lawsuit against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on charges related to bribery in a Halliburton deal involving a natural gas contract in the West African nation.

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