Shell’s Divestment from N’Delta Must be Halted Until Decommissioning, Say Groups

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

International organisations, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations  (SOMO), Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN) and others have urged the federal government to stop the divestment plan by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) until clean-up and decommissioning issues are addressed in Niger Delta region.

Unveiling a report titled “Selling Out Nigeria: Shell’s Irresponsible Divestment”, in Port Harcourt, the Executive Director of SOMO, Audrey Gaughran said Shell plans to divest, leaving widespread historical oil pollution across the Delta.

Gaughran who spoke via zoom, insisted that Shell cannot be allowed to divest from the onshore oil industry in the Niger Delta before it takes responsibility for its toxic legacy of pollution and the safe decommissioning of abandoned oil infrastructure.

The organisation noted: “The oil giant is leaving behind petroleum contaminated rivers and streams, and large areas of polluted land that have devastated the lives and livelihoods of millions of people living in the Niger Delta”.

Narrating the unveiled report, Gaughran stressed that while Shell has maintained that oil theft and interference with pipelines are the causes of much of the oil pollution, the claims has no bearing on the company’s responsibility to clean-up the degraded area, insisting that “Under Nigerian law, Shell must clean-up oil spills no matter the cause”.

Noting the consequence of ignoring the polluted areas, the group regretted that it is likely to worsen in the years ahead with an alleged massive unpaid bill for safety decommissioning oil and dilapidated oil infrastructure.

“As the oil industry enters its final phase, whether that’s in the next five years or 25, Shell has sold its toxic assets and will not be left holding them when the music stops.

“ Shell has profited from oil extraction for decades, and in doing so, has made the Niger Delta one if the most oil polluted places on earth, leaving communities to face the dire consequences that will remain well beyond the lifetime of the industry.

“Shell is not the only international oil company exiting the onshore Niger Delta. All of the European and US oil majors are also leaving. However, the departure of Shell, which has been the dominant operator with the largest footprint in the region for decades, impacts significant areas of the Delta and thousands of communities,” it said.

In her remarks at the programme, the Country Director at SDN, Florence Kayemba noted the economic crisis faced by Nigeria, saying that the region will suffer badly in future if there is no proper clean-up of the environment before Shell divestment.

“The international oil companies are divesting at an accelerated rate and the report highlighted that the process is inadequate. There will be no just energy transition under this regime. That is why civil society organisations are proposing a set of principles for responsible oil industry divestment that can be adopted by Nigeria and followed in all deals.

“The principles would help ensure a transparent process to assess the capacity of the incoming companies, with meaningful community consultation throughout, address environmental pollution, and deteriorating and abandoned infrastructure,” she added.

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