A leading environment-focused civil society organization (CSO), Environmental Rights Action Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has charged the Federal Government to ensure that oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Nigeria, account for all its actions before divesting its interests from the nation’s oil and gas industry.
The CSO in a statement issued in Benin, Edo State, strongly detested the recently announced plans by petroleum company to sell its land-based and shallow offshore oil fields and infrastructure in the Niger Delta region.
The group alleged that Shell, having almost drained the region dry of oil and gas resources through reckless operations in the region, had something to hide by seeking to walk away from its crime scene with billions of dollars in its kitty.
According to the Programme Director of ERA/FoEN, Mike Karikpo, who signed the statement, the CSO group has been at the forefront of campaigns to leave the oil in the soil and to halt oil and gas extraction, but strongly deplores the insensitivity of the transnational corporations that have, in recent years, been divesting from the region.
Karipo noted that Shell and other entities have been collecting huge payouts for the oil fields and infrastructure sold and leaving local communities to deal with the devastation and destruction of the ecosystem, their lives and livelihoods.
He stated: “Shell recently sold OML 17 to HEIRS Holding in a deal worth well over half a billion dollars and absolutely nothing was set aside for the remediation and restoration of the damaged ecosystem of communities around this area.“
The environment protection advocate pointed out that the call on the Federal Government became imperative in view of the antecedents of SPDC Nigeria for disdain for local communities and disrespect of Nigeria’s justice system.
For instance, Karipo cited the refusal of Shell to pay the N17 billion compensation awarded by a Nigerian court to the Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme local government area of Rivers state for oil spills that devastated their land in 2010, to justify the CSO’s latest concerns.
The director further clarified: “This spill occurred during the Nigerian civil war 1967-1970 and Shell has refused to undertake proper cleanup of the spill area or pay the compensation set by the court. In November 2020 Shell lost an attempt to extricate itself from responsibility for the spill and the compensation cost awarded against it. The Nigerian supreme court rejected Shell’s bid to set aside the 2010 compensation award, with accruing interest the compensation claim now stands at a healthy N180 billion.”
In his comments, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, declared that: “Shell owes the environment and the people of the Niger Delta region a huge ecological debt for its reckless operations in the region over the last seven decades, and should not just be allowed to walk away as if it is doing our people a big favour. Allowing Shell to run away from accountability for its ruinous actions in the Niger Delta region amounts to eating your cake and having it.”
The environmentalist therefore, called on the Nigerian government to protect oil producing local communities’ interest within the divestment process of international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the Niger Delta region and prevent Shell from divesting from the nation’s hydrocarbon resources industry unless it cleans up the Niger Delta region where it operated over the years.
This is even as the CSO called on other civil society organisations and local communities to immediately constitute negotiating teams that will participate in any discussion and decision on the sale of Shell’s assets.
ERA/FoEN maintained that doing this would ensure that part of the money from the sale of Shell’s assets in the region will be utilized for the remediation, compensation and restoration of the local communities’ environment.