Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has strongly deplored the recent disclosure that Shell has concluded plans to sell its land based and shallow offshore oil fields and infrastructures in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
In its characteristic nature, Shell having almost drained the region dry of oil and gas resources and engaged in ecocide because of its reckless and unconscionable operations in the region now seeks to walk away from its crime scene with billions of dollars in its kitty.
ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued from its head office in Benin City 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.
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 “Shell as a criminal enterprise that is only interested in maximizing 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.
The Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, states that 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. Dr Ojo further states that Shell is running away from accountability for its ruinous actions in the Niger Delta region and amounts to eating your cake and having it.”
He 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.Mike Karikpo, Director of Programs of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria particularly 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 9 long years our courts of justice have finally delivered its verdict.
ERA/FoEN in their 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.
Mike Karikpo, further stated that Shell has a history of disdain for local communities and disrespect of Nigeria’s justice system. He 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. 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.
ERA/FoEN therefore 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 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.
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 self-regulated 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.