LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Shell Nigeria says its Trans Niger Pipeline is safe despite 25 leaks in two years, the latest one an explosion and fire caused by oil theft that forced the company to close it.

Managing director Mutiu Sunmonu said Friday "shutting down the pipeline as has been suggested is not the answer." He blamed 23 of the 25 leaks on oil theft.

Sunmonu confirmed some arrests have been made in the June 19 theft. Activists have quoted people in the Niger Delta as saying those arrested for theft were contracted to repair the 48-year-old pipeline, which produces 150,000 barrels daily.

Shell loses 60,000 barrels a day to theft. Human rights groups say the company sometimes blames theft to avoid paying damages to local communities and to avert criticism of corroding pipelines.

 

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