Environmental Rights Action Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoE), has demanded that the oil giant, Shell, should be made to account before divesting its interests in the Nigerian oil industry, asking the federal government to act fast.
The group said it strongly deplored the recent disclosure that Shell that it has concluded plans to sell its land based and shallow offshore oil fields and infrastructures in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
In a statement in Benin City, ERA/FoRN, also noted that in its characteristic nature, Shell having almost drained the region dry of oil and gas resources and engaged in genocide because of its reckless and unconscionable operations in the region, have something to hide by seeking to walk away from its crime scene with billions of dollars in its kitty.
The statement which was endorsed by the Programme Director of ERA/FoEN, Mike Karikpo, further stated that though it has been at the forefront of campaigns to leave the oil in the soil and to halt oil and gas extraction, it strongly deplores the insensitivity of the transnational corporation that has over the last few years been divesting from the region, 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.
“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, “Karikpo added.
He said the call on the federal government became imperative given the history of Shell as one with disdain for local communities and disrespect of Nigeria’s justice system.
The ERA/FoEN programme director cited the repeated 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.
He said: “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.”
Also, 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.”
He therefore, called on the Nigerian state to protect local communities’ interest within the divestment process of oil and gas multinational companies operating in the Niger Delta region and halt Shell’s attempt to run away from its mess without proper clean up of the Niger Delta.
Against this backdrop, ERA/FoEN therefore called on CSOs and local communities to immediately put in place negotiating teams that will participate in any discussions and decision on the sale of Shell’s environmentally destructive assets so that they can ensure that the billions of dollars that would accrue from the sale would be utilized for the remediation, compensation and restoration of our environment.