The Federal government must not allow Shell to sell off its assets that have ruined the environment and livelihoods of Niger Delta communities without remediating the impacted environments and adequately compensating the locals, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has said.

ERA/FoEN demands are coming on the heels media reports that Shell is planning to sell a productive Nigerian oil block to a consortium led by oil-trading firm Taleveras Group for more than $2.5 billion.

Media reports indicated that in addition to OML 29, the largest of the southern Niger Delta assets Shell put up for auction last year, the current deal includes the 60-mile Nembe Creek pipeline, which moves oil through the Delta to the Atlantic coast and serves as one of the country’s main crude arteries.

Shell has been working to sell several of its onshore Nigerian holdings, which have been plagued by leaks coming largely from poor maintenance and poor monitoring to check the leaks.

The Nembe Creek pipeline for instance, has been responsible for a host of spills, some of which the local communities have accused Shell of trying to cover up or blame them for. In a multiple spill incident of August 2012 the communities alleged that Shell even attempted to forge the report of a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) which involved representatives of the locals.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN insisted that, “Shell cannot divest without clearing its mess and paying the full price”

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “It is evident that Shell is divesting its toxic infrastructure in order to shore up its dwindling capital caused by heavy environmental burden and social risks it has incurred. The company is attempting to flee from the nest it has fouled thereby shifting the odium to local communities of the Niger delta. This will not be accepted”

Ojo said that the Nigerian government should immediately halt the divestment plan until Shell cleans up every pollution it has caused and provide verifiable remediation in line with global standards.

“We are in solidarity with the impacted communities and Friends of the Earth International groups that recently at its Biennial General Meeting in Sri Lanka demanded that the Nigerian government must muster the political will to implement the UNEP report recommendations on cleanup of Ogoniland after three years of inaction on the report.”

The ERA/FoEN boss said: “There is no doubt that Shell has been a very bad investor that the communities of the Niger Delta will like to get rid off but it must be held accountable for donkey years of pollution and devastation which cannot be erased by the whim.

This is also to sound a note of caution to companies buying Shells toxic assets that they will be liable to the assets and liabilities which will continue to hunt them until environmental justice is served. Shell’s divestment without doing the needful is not acceptable and must be halted,” Ojo stressed.

Philip Jakpor

Head of Media