N’Delta women urge Tinubu to ensure no divestment without ecosystem restoration
By Nelson Chidiebere
A coalition of Community women drawn up from states of the Niger Delta region has urged President Bola Tinubu to halt all plans by International Oil Companies (IOCs) to sell off their onshore assets until the deplorable ecosystem is restored.
The women, through the Power Up Project in Nigeria implemented by Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, made the call at the weekend in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, in a press conference, noting their dismay over the announcement by Shell to sell off their assets to investors without necessary consultations with communities that have suffered decades of environmental destruction from their operations
A statement signed by Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre and four allied community-based women’s organizations noted that the affected women in the Niger Delta expressed worry and concern about what they described as the swift nature of this divestment plans, without government providing guidelines that ensure all the pollution issues are resolved before the IOCs leave.
The statement reads: “We have noticed that decision has been taken to sell Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), to a consortium of investors, Renaissance Africa Energy. Already, SPDC has divested OML 17 and OML 29 without guidelines. Similarly, Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Exxon Mobil Nigeria Limited, and Total Energy Nigeria Limited are also set to divest all their onshore assets without engaging host communities and correcting damages done to the environment and people’s well-being. They are running away oh!”
They added: “Women in the Niger Delta, clearly suffer the deprivations engendered by oil exploitation.
” Women play significant roles in earning the family’s subsistence income through agricultural activities, they are also required to process farm produce for meals and trade the balance for income.
“These gendered engagements with the environment women to navigate ecologically degraded and crude oil-affected swamps to gather periwinkles, collect firewood, fetch water, fish, etc. Crop yields have also been seriously impacted, with a steady decline in the harvest of crops like yams, cassava and plantain.
“On some occasions, harvested tuber crops have been found to contain crude oil deposits in them. The intensity of pollution from crude oil extraction activities has directly affected the productivity of women’s income-generating activities and engendered an alarming rate of poverty.”
Furthermore, the women explained that they do not know the reputation of the new companies buying the assets of Shell and AGIP.
Also, the women pleaded with the Federal Government not to approve the divestment plans of Shell, AGIP and Exxon Mobil until polluted farmlands are cleaned up and restored by them.
“Women have experienced health problems as a result of exposure to hydrocarbons! The manner of this divestment is not in the interest of community people. The right things should be done!
“We condemn this attempt by the International Oil Companies to abandon the responsibility of restoring the damaged ecosystem in the guise of selling off assets.
“We use this opportunity to call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ensure there is no divestment without ecosystem restoration,” they insisted.