BusinessDay

Media, CSOs, others flay FG over lack of framework on oil divestment in Niger Delta

The media, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and community leaders have flayed the Federal Government of Nigeria for its inability to develop a framework that will take care of the many years of oil degradation, ecological and oil pollution in the Niger Delta before oil divestment.
The groups made their position known in a one-day Media-CSO dialogue on motives behind International Oil Companies (IOC) divestment in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
In his welcome remark, the Executive Director of Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Chima Williams explained the reasons why oil companies like Shell Petroleum Development Company ( SPDC), Mobile, Agip Oil and others are running away from their liabilities, especially the quantum of oil degradation left unattended to after many years of oil pollution in the Niger Delta before divestment to offshore.

Williams maintained that divestment concept by oil companies in Nigeria was different from the real reality on ground after “many years of neglect, injustice, marginalisation, human rights abuses, oppression and suppression” of the communities who are host to oil multinationals.
The human rights activist also said that the Federal Government should be in position to explain to communities before allowing oil companies to sell off their assets to new Nigerian oil companies without taking into consideration the suffering position of oil producing communities, noting that the livelihood of the people have been damaged over the years, yet the “Federal Government deliberately excluded them in the new oil deal.”

Explaining further, Williams said that the land and the sea have been polluted thereby creating more poverty, tension and insecurity in the Niger Delta, adding that the smaller communities have defeated Shell, Agip and Mobile oil companies at their home countries with huge compensations in legal tussle as part of reasons for divestment.

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The legal practitioner further said that the IOCs are running away from their responsibilities and liabilities, hence the relocation to high seas.

In his presentation, titled ‘The Neo Liberal Approach to Divestment: The Niger Delta as Case Study,” Prof. Sofiri Joab-Peterside told participants that there were humongous human insecurity in the Niger Delta due to the activities of oil exploration and exploitative tendencies of the multinational oil companies and that they were divesting to run away from all the litany of problems they have created, but regretted that the Federal Government was keeping a blind eye on the effect in the name of green energy and global push for energy transition.
Joab-Peterside said the reasons being given for divestment such as oil theft, vandalism and lost in investment was only an excuse after degrading the Niger Delta environment for years.
He said the oil companies were owing banks in billions of naira as part of loans, oil rent and taxes.
He blamed the Federal Government for allowing the oil companies to operate neo-libralism as part of their methodology in the Niger Delta.
Ken Henshaw in his presentation on ‘Reporting Divestments: What the media should focus on,” said that the Federal Government must hold oil companies responsible for all the atrocities they have committed over the years in the Niger Delta.
He expressed disappointment that the Federal Government has not taken into consideration the legal framework before allowing oil companies to divest, since they are partners in the oil business, especially as they refused to integrate the communities into the new concept, advising that community liabilities are left unattended to.
Earlier, the Executive Director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Emem Okon, had outlined so many ways where women and the communities have been excluded in oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta since oil was struck in the region.

She enumerated the ways where community voices were stifled in the area of development in their domain.

Some of those who contributed in the discussion include the former Commissioner of environment of Bayelsa State, Iniruo Wills who blamed the woes in the oil industry on lack of vision by those who have occupied the position of the Ministry of Petroleum, especially those from the Niger Delta region.

He maintained that in the 70 years of oil exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta, over 30 million of Niger Deltans have lost their livelihood to oil spills and degradation.
According to him, many have been killed due to communal clashes with oil companies, miitary invasion, and drinking of polluted water being responsible for the deaths of many children in Akwa Ibom State and the benzene in underground water in Ogoniland.

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