Niger Delta: CSOs back NASS resolution to halt divestment by IOCs

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By Sumaila Ogbaje

A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations have aligned with the resolution passed by the House of Representatives to halt ongoing divestment of oil and gas assets by multinational companies operating in the Niger Delta.

The coalition made its position known at a news conference on Sunday in Abuja.

The coalition was led by Botti Isaac of Social Action Integrated Centre (Social Action), Nigeria; Dr Prince Ekpere of OLESH Centre for Community Development; Arigbabu Sulaiman of HEDA Resource Centre and Dr Barrister Uko Etuk of Policy Alert.

Others are Shehu Akowe of Health of Mother Earth Foundation; Prince Ayanfe Akintola of Legislative Media and Citizens Advocacy Initiative (LeMCAI).

They said that their position was made known when they met with Executive Secretary of Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Kayode Komolafe, in Abuja.

Speaking on the resolution, Isaac expressed worry over the rationale behind Federal Government’s plan to hurriedly approve the IOCs’ divestment plans without proper assessment.

Isaac said the coalition was worried at the pace that Federal Government was taking to grant these approvals.

”You would recall that Federal Government has set this June as deadline for granting the divestment approvals to all these oil companies.

“But we are worried that in spite of the cries and complains of Nigerians the Federal Government is interested in completing the transactions not minding the implications on the people.

“So, we are saying that the Federal Government should slow down that pace, carry out comprehensive audit and investigation around the divestment process,” he said.

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Isaac also urged the Federal Government through NURPC to put necessary measures in place to ensure that the process transparent, accountable and in compliance with international best practices.

These, according to him, are some of the demands that government should put a halt to the divestment to ensure the right thing is done.

He said it would enable any of the oil companies that had applied for divestment through divestment application to make sure they comply with the standards and the requirements that government had put in place for them to divest.

According to him, government should not be in haste to grant the approval but rather listen to the voice of wisdom.

“The National Assembly has asked them to suspend the process, they should suspend the process and ensure the right thing is done before going ahead with the approval,” he added.

On his part, Dr Prince Ekpere affirmed that companies operating in the country had the right to re-order or divest investments, but alleged that the funds to be used by the Consortium which intends to acquire SPDC assets would be provided by Shell.

Ekpere called for proactive steps to hold the IOCs accountable for their historical activities in the oil producing region.

He added that the assessment report conducted by Bayelsa State Government indicated that the sum of 12 billion dollars, would be required to clear the environmental degradation in the state.

“These are some of the reasons why most likely these oil companies are divesting from the Niger Delta. They want to evade the long historical liabilities they’ve caused thjbhe the Niger Delta,” he said.

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In her remarks, Cecilia Ogwuchie, Legal/Programme Officer for HEDA Resource Centre, explained that one of their concerns was the Environmental Liability and Cleanup.

Ogwuchie said the divestment had raised critical questions about responsibility for past and ongoing environmental damages due to oil pollution.m

According to her, with assets changing hands, there is concern about the commitment of new local owners to address legacy pollution issues and invest in necessary cleanup and remediation efforts for the past and recent liabilities.

She lamented that contentious award of cleanup contracts and oil spill management had often intensified tensions, underscoring the necessity for equitable and transparent divestment.

She harped on the need to ensure effective regulatory oversight and legal clarity.

She added that “minimal involvement of regulatory bodies in supervising previous asset transactions and ensuring the addressing of environmental liabilities raises alarms about the efficacy of existing frameworks to safeguard community rights and ecological integrity amidst divestments.

“We are a delegation representing Nigerian civil society organizations and community groups working to promote the best interest of Nigerian citizens, their natural environment and livelihoods in the context of oil and gas extraction and energy access in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

“We have collected over 1000 signatures from community leaders of the Niger Delta, national and international organizations, academic scholars and concerned individuals.”

According to her, they are all calling on the Federal Government to address the critical issue of Shell’s divestment from The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC).

“This proposed divestment, which entails Shell’s withdrawal from its Nigerian onshore operations by transferring its interests to a consortium comprising various Nigerian and international energy entities—demands an immediate halt to enable scrutiny given the historical and ongoing challenges in the Niger Delta region.

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“We acknowledge and applaud the recent resolution of the House of Representatives directing the NUPRC to withhold consent for all international oil companies intending to sell off assets in the Niger Delta region.

“We are expecting that NUPRC will respect the views of the National Assembly and the Nigerian people, especially the members of the communities in the sites of oil and gas extraction in the Niger Delta, and halt approval of all divestment requests.

“Our delegation is here to offer our partnership towards ensuring that no divestment proceeds without clear commitments to environmental remediation, community compensation, Payment and Escrow of Host Community Fund, participatory and implementable decarbonization plan, and the establishment of robust regulatory oversight,” she said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Isaac Aregbesola

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