*IOC defends self against contempt allegation, says it’s not quitting Nigeria
Emmanuel Addeh and Alex Enumah in Abuja
A Niger Delta group, the Alliance for the Defence of Eleme, has kicked against the recently announced deal by Shell to exit its onshore operations and sell its oil and gas assets to a consortium of five firms.
Leader of the alliance, Johnson Mba-Ngei, in a statement at the weekend condemned the move, insisting that the international oil company must fully discharge its responsibilities to highly impacted communities before its planned withdrawal.
According to the Niger Delta group, Shell must compensate all communities affected by its activities in the region, especially in cases like Egbalor and the recent spill in Eleme Local Government Area on June 11, 2023.
Describing the alleged damage caused by Shell’s decades of operations in the Niger Delta as immense, the group explained that this has resulted in environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods, and adverse health effects for countless members of the communities.
“We, the Alliance for the Defence of Eleme, stand before you today with heavy hearts and unwavering resolve as we address a matter of grave concern: Shell’s decision to sell its onshore assets in the Niger Delta region.
“Shell’s announcement of its intention to divest its onshore assets, particularly in the Niger Delta region, has sent shockwaves throughout our communities. This move, if approved, will have far-reaching consequences not only for the affected communities but also for the entire region’s ecological, socio-economic, and cultural wellbeing.
“As representatives of the people, we vehemently condemn Shell’s decision and urge the federal government of Nigeria not to approve this detrimental move. We stand firm in our demand that Shell be held accountable for its actions and that justice be served for the communities it has impacted,” the coalition added.
The reasons provided by Shell for its divestment, namely: To compensate communities affected by its activities, remediate the Niger Delta region and re-evaluate its assets, the group said, are wholly inadequate and fail to address the gravity of the situation.
“First and foremost, Shell must compensate all communities affected by its activities in the Niger Delta region, especially in cases like Egbalor and the recent spill in Eleme Local Government Area on the 11th of June, 2023.
“The damage caused by Shell’s operations has been immense, resulting in environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods, and adverse health effects for countless individuals. Any attempt to divest without fulfilling this crucial obligation would be an egregious betrayal of justice and humanity,” the alliance stated.
Furthermore, it demanded that Shell must commit to a comprehensive remediation effort for the entire Niger Delta region before even considering leaving.
Decades of oil spills, gas flaring, and other environmental abuses, it maintained, have left the region’s ecosystem in ruins, threatening the health and well-being of its inhabitants.
Besides, it pointed out that Shell cannot simply wash its hands of its responsibility and walk away, insisting that it must take concrete actions to undo the damage it has caused and restore the region to its former glory.
Moreover, the Eleme group noted that Shell must conduct a thorough re-evaluation of its entire asset portfolio to ensure that dysfunctional assets are not sold to investors.
“It is imperative that Shell does not pass on its liabilities to unsuspecting parties, knowing full well the imminent catastrophe that could unfold in the short term.
“Any attempt to offload problematic assets without proper disclosure and accountability would be nothing short of a betrayal of trust and a disregard for human life and the environment.
“In conclusion, we call upon the federal government of Nigeria to reject Shell’s proposal to sell its onshore assets in the Niger Delta region. We implore Shell international to reconsider its stance and take meaningful steps to address the grievances of the affected communities and the wider region,” the group said.
The coalition maintained that justice, accountability, and environmental stewardship must prevail, stressing that it will not rest until the aforementioned principles are upheld.
Meanwhile, Shell has said it has no plan of quitting Nigeria, nor disposing of all of its assets in the country.
Shell’s clarification is coming on the heels of a committal to prison proceedings initiated last week against four of its officials by an oil producing community in Ondo State.
The community last Wednesday filed the “Form 48” against shell and four of his official, for allegedly violating the orders of court.
Recall that Justice T. B. Adegoke of a Federal High Court in Akure, had last year, made an “Order of Mareva injunction, restraining shell from disposing off any of their assets in any part of Nigeria, pending the hearing and determination of the suit of the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs, Afolabi Akinruntan and 1,215 had dragged shell to court over alleged environmental hazards and degradation caused by the oil spillage of Shell’s ruptured pipelines.
However, following Shell’s announcement two weeks ago, about the sale of its asset worth over $2.4 billion to a consortium of local companies, the plaintiffs/applicants had approached Adegoke to jail four executives of the company for disobeying the court’s order.
Those that may be sent to prison include: SPDC’s Managing Director, Osagie Okunbor; Country Legal Counsel, SPDC, Mrs Keibi Atemie; Head of Corporate Litigation, Shell Africa, SPDC, Ikechukwu Ekwume and Finance Director, Jan Van Bunnik.
Reacting to the committal to prison over the weekend, the oil giant in a statement clarified that it is not “disposing all of its assets” or “quit(ting) its business operations in country.”
An SPDC spokesperson, Michael Adande, stated that contrary to the submissions of the plaintiffs/ applicants, Shell will not dispose of any of its Joint Venture (JV) assets, nor quit the country.
The company also explained that as a law abiding business entity, that has regards for the rule of law, it has taken legal steps to address the issue of the freezing of its assets as well as degradation of the Ondo community by alleged oil spillage from some ruptured pipelines belonging to the company.
“As part of the transaction, SPDC will not dispose of any SPDC JV assets and SPDC will continue to operate these assets on behalf of the JV. Shell will remain a major investor in Nigeria’s energy sector through its Deepwater and integrated gas businesses.
“SPDC complies with the law, including court orders, and respects the judiciary and its role in upholding the rule of law. SPDC has challenged the freezing order in court and disputes the validity of the underlying spills claim on which the order was based. SPDC has a strong case and expects a decision in due course”, Adande stated.
The statement further noted that by purchasing all the shares in SPDC, Renaissance will, at completion, control SPDC’s 30 per cent stake in the SPDC JV, which consists of 15 oil mining leases for petroleum operations onshore and three leases for petroleum operations in shallow water in Nigeria.
“Shell continues to be active in Nigeria with various other businesses, that are outside the scope of this transaction, which include: Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), which produces oil and gas in the deepwater Gulf of Guinea.
“Shell Nigeria Gas Limited (SNG), which provides gas to domestic industrial and commercial customers; and Daystar Power Group, which provides integrated solar power to commercial and industrial business across West Africa.
“In addition, Shell holds a 25.6 per cent interest in Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), which produces and exports LNG to global markets. Shell’s interest in NLNG is also outside the scope of this transaction,” the spokesperson explained.