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After FG Backs Shell Divestment, Group Calls To Halt Process Until Cleanup Heightens

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After FG Backs Shell Divestment, Group Calls To Halt Process Until Cleanup Heightens

Nelson Chidiebere, Port Harcourt

After the recent backing by the Federal Government for oil multinationals to divest their onshore assets, community stakeholders and civil societies in the Niger Delta region have insisted that the divestment process must be halted until issues of clean-up and decommissioning of the assets are addressed.

The call intensified even as the Federal Government had warned that it would not tolerate any short-changing of Nigeria in the whole process. A new report by (the Center for Research on Multinational Corporations) SOMO released on February 28, titled, Selling our Nigeria: ‘Shell’s reckless divestment from Niger Delta’, revealed that the abandoned infrastructure and inadequate funds for decommissioning is a ticking time bomb.

The report stated that Shell is selling a complex maze of investors, some of whom are unstable and face financial difficulties. Also, the report findings showed there is a massive transparency gap around the issue of funding for decommissioning.

Executive Director of the Center for Research on Multinational Corporations, Audrey Gaughran, said despite the Nigerian Government having legal requirements for companies to set aside funds for decommissioning, there is no means to establish how much funding companies have or have not set aside. Speaking via virtual at a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt recently, Guaghran said available indicators are worrying, adding that research could not find any confirmation that Shell has set up a fund or funds to cover the decommissioning of the oil mining lease it has sold.

She said: “Shell must not be allowed to simply walk away from this most emblematic of unjust energy transition cases. The lack of funding for safe decommissioning and poor financial transparency is fully addressed in Nigeria will be an important litmus test for a just energy transition across the world.”

This is a reaction to the Minister of Petroleum Resources(Oil) Heineken Lokpobiri, who reportedly said the Nigerian government would allow oil companies to leave the same way they came and would not block them. The Minister also revealed that the divestment process is about 95 percent completed.

Irked by the posture of the government in the whole process, several Civil Societies said they are not opposed to IOCs leaving the region but insisted that they should be transparent.

While expressing fears, going by the SOMO report which also revealed how Shell has sold to newly created companies that have -in some cases – little real substance, opaque backgrounds, or involve complex groups of domestic and foreign investors, they argued that some of the companies that are rumored to have bought the oil assets seem to have set themselves up to extract Nigeria’s last remaining oil wealth and are likely to simply fade away when oil ceases to be profitable.

Also, the report found that while Shell has offloaded its problem assets, it is still involved financially in some of the new operations. Shell has loaned funds to several of the new companies or will buy the oil they produce.
Meanwhile, efforts are ongoing to ensure Shell and other oil majors come out plain in the whole divestment process as the likes of Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN) and others said they have resorted to challenging the issue internationally.

The Country Director of Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN), Mrs. Florence Ibok-Abasi said Shell should not be allowed to walk out of the legacies of pollution it has created as a result of its decades of operations without addressing them. Also, women, whose farmland and means of livelihood are affected by the oil exploration activities of the IOCs have resorted to using local means to seek justice by urging the Rivers State governor, Siminalayi Fubara sue the companies for damages.

The women’s group, known as Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, and their allied community-based women organizations also urged President Tinubu not to allow the planned sale of onshore oil and gas assets to see the daylight despite the president’s directive for speedy process of the divestment.

Executive Director of the women’s group, Dr Emem Okon, during a world press conference, on behalf of 10 allied community-based women’s organizations rejected the divestment by the IOC while expressing dismay that oil multinationals are divesting without conducting necessary consultations with communities that have endured decades of environmental destruction from their operations.

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