Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has deplored the recent disclosure that Shell plans to sell its land based and shallow offshore oil fields and infrastructures in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The Benin City-based group accused the oil giant of “seeking to walk away from its crime scene with billions of dollars in its kitty” after “having almost drained the region dry of oil and gas resources and engaging in ecocide”.
ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued from its head offices in the Edo State capital on Monday, August 2, 2021 and signed by Mike Karikpo, Programmes Director, states that whilst 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”.
According to the group, 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”.
A community leader and critic of Shell in the Niger Delta region, Mr Eraks Kobah, says that “Shell is only interested in maximising profit”. He states further that his community has been in court with Shell for decades over the major oil blowout and destruction of the environment and the community’s sources of livelihood around the Bomu manifold in Kdere in the Ogoni area of Nigeria.
Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, states: “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.”
Dr Ojo 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”.
Karikpo praised local communities in Ibeno, noting that the oil multinationals operating in Nigeria have always ensured that communities and groups who institute legal cases against them go through the harrowing experience of a long and difficult walk to justice. It will be recalled that this suit against Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited was instituted in 2012 and after nine years the courts of justice finally delivered its verdict.
ERA/FoEN in the press statement praised the Nigerian judiciary for the “thoughtful and courageous decisions” that they have been handing down recently in cases involving local communities and the multinational oil and gas companies who have “often used their deep pockets to capture and arrest the judicial process”.
ERA/FoEN calls 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 assets so that they can ensure that the billions of dollars that would accrue from the sale would be utilised for the remediation, compensation, and restoration of our environment.
ERA/FoEN further calls on CSOs and communities to explore opportunities for filing cases in Nigeria and other relevant jurisdictions to demand that they be given a seat at the table during the sale processes on the basis of the ecological debt that Shell owes the environment and local communities and the need to set aside funds to remediate and restore damaged ecosystems resulting from Shell’s operations in Nigeria over the last 70 years.
“We call on the Nigerian state to ensure that the process of sale of these assets is open, transparent and inclusive to enable communities with ongoing litigations and others with verifiable claims against Shell to participate and monitor the process.
“This is even more relevant in this decade of Ecosystem Restoration declared by the United Nations 2021-2030. As oil fades away as the energy source of choice across the world, it is imperative that all oil impacted ecosystems across the country should be cleaned and restored as much as possible to the state they were before the commencement of oil mining activities. Anything short of this, is unacceptable,” says ERA/FoEN.