The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on Shell to be accountable and to also halt the divestment of its oil facilities in the Niger Delta region.
A statement by ERA/FoEN programmes director, Mike Karikpo, said the call came on the heels of Shell’s recent disclosure that it had concluded plans to sell its land based and shallow offshore oil fields and infrastructures in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The statement said Shell in its characteristic nature, 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 was seeking to walk away from its crime scene with billions of dollars in its kitty.
It said ERA/FoEN, whilst at the forefront of campaigns to leave the oil in the soil and to halt oil and gas extraction, strongly deplored the insensitivity of the transnational corporation that had 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,” it said.
It praised local communities in Ibeno for its long legal battle against Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, noting that the oil multinationals operating in Nigeria had always ensured that communities and groups who instituted legal cases against them go through the harrowing experience of a long and difficult walk to justice. It would be recalled that the suit against Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited was instituted in 2012 and after 9 long years, the court finally delivered its verdict.
The statement also 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 “that have often used their deep pockets to capture and arrest the judicial process.”
According to the statement, Shell has a history of disdain for local communities and disrespect of Nigeria’s justice system. It 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. The spill, it said, 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 on the compensation claim now standing at a healthy N180 billion,” it further pointed out.
It urged CSOs and local communities to immediately put in place negotiating teams that would participate in any discussions and decisions on the sale of Shell’s environmentally destructive assets so that they could ensure that the billions of dollars that would accrue from the sale would be utilized for the remediation, compensation and restoration of their environment.
The statement further called 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,” it added.