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Shell’s onshore divestment targeted at evading clean-up of oil spills, CSOs tell FG

Shell’s onshore divestment targeted at evading clean-up of oil spills, CSOs tell FG
May 24
12:44 2021

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have asked the federal government to compel Shell to clean-up the massive pollution its extractive activities have created in the Niger Delta.

The CSOs, in a statement on Sunday, cautioned that Shell’s plan to move offshore is only targeted at evading the scrutiny that its onshore activities have attracted.

The coalition consists three organisations, namely Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).

Ben van Beurden, chief executive officer of Shell, had said that the company has struggled for years with spills in the Niger Delta because of pipeline theft and sabotage as well as operational issues.

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Beurden had remarked that Shell cannot solve community problems in the Niger Delta, and added that, “that is for the Nigerian government perhaps to solve”.

In January, a Dutch court ruled that Shell must pay for damages caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta region. Four farmers had sued the company for oil spills that they say caused widespread pollution of the land.

The CSOs expressed worry that the Nigerian government will be setting a wrong precedent if it allows Shell to move offshore without addressing the grave environmental imprints its extraction has caused in the Niger Delta region.

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According to them, Shell is attracted to offshore extraction because oil companies pay less, and sometimes zero, royalties to Nigeria on wells in deeper waters, as well as to dodge responsibility for their “onshore mess”.

They noted that it was time for Nigeria to diversify and transition from oil/gas, rather than allow Shell and her cohorts to set their eyes on more polluting activities offshore.

Nnimmo Bassey, director of HOMEF, insisted that Shell’s operations have been a vicious cycle of reckless extraction, pollution and environmental degradation, utter disregard for the people, and brazen attempts to place the blame on the same people it has inflicted pains on.

“We never expected less from a company that has ridden roughshod on the environment and people of the Niger Delta while raking in blood profits. From Ogoni to Ikarama to Ikot Ada Udo and Ejama-Ebubu, the footprints that Shell wants to run away from are open wounds that cannot be healed by evading responsibility,” he said.

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On his part, Akinbode Oluwafemi, executive director of CAPPA, said it was the duty of the federal government to make Shell accountable for the environmental damage caused by spills and their impacts on communities in the Niger Delta region.

In his remark, Chima Williams, acting director of ERA/FoEN, said: “It is simply unacceptable and wishful thinking for Shell to even think it could escape liability from the mess it has created in the Niger Delta.”

“The landmark ruling of the Dutch court against Shell in favour of the Niger Delta farmers in January 2021 and the UK court ruling in February affirming the rights of communities to sue even in European courts have opened vistas of opportunities that communities will exploit to hold Shell accountable.

“Shell is going nowhere without cleaning up and paying up. The era of impunity is over.”

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The organisations urged communities to explore legal tools such as the liability roadmap launched in 2020, to hold Shell accountable.

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