Resource Justice

Rallying for Justice: Niger Delta Communities Demand Accountability from Shell and Government

Social Development Integrated Centre Social Action led a group of community groups and CSOs in the Niger Delta in a rally in Port Harcourt to press home their demand for the federal government to halt the divestment application of Shell until a comprehensive health, environment, and livelihood audit is carried out, and adequate restoration is done, with commensurate compensation paid to the affected communities.

The peaceful protest came in the wake of the disclosure by the Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, that the Federal Government will consent to and approve the agreement reached between Shell and a consortium of five Nigerian companies for divestment of Shell’s onshore assets, when it receives all the necessary documents. The protesters, mainly consisting of women and youth, noted that oil operations in the Niger Delta by Shell and other multinationals have led to environmental and health hazards in the region, disrupting the historical natural means of livelihood of the people and causing the young people to resort to other untoward means for survival, such as engaging in artisanal crude oil refining, also known locally as ‘kpo fire’.

A cross section of women and youth groups and Civil Society Organisations with their message to the federal government

The rally commenced from the UTC junction in Port Harcourt and terminated at the Rivers State government house. Protesters came to the capital city of the state all the way from communities like Rumuekpe, Egi, Krokrotai, Abua, Eleme, Umuechem, despite the hardships occasioned by inflation, high cost of goods, and soaring transportation costs, to make their voices heard. They carried placards with various messages like “Our environment is tied to live, clean up, restore and pay up,” “No restoration, no remediation,” “Save the Niger Delta, restore our livelihoods,” and “FG halt the divestment process now.”

Dr. Prince Edegbuo, Programme Manager of Social Action Nigeria, voiced the collective sentiment of the gathering, denouncing Shell’s legacy of environmental devastation and social injustice. He emphasized the need to hold transnational corporations accountable for the pollution they have caused. Citing the UNEP Report and findings from the Bayelsa State Oil and Environment Commission, Dr. Edegbuo lamented the region’s status as one of the most polluted places on earth. Woman groups decried the impacts of oil pollution on health, livelihood, and family lives of the Niger Delta people. Protesters voiced concerns about the lack of transparency and meaningful community engagement in the divestment process, demanding immediate intervention from the government to ensure accountability and justice.

Spokespersons of the different groups, including Madam Idongesit, Zinabari Mgba, Michael Gbarele, Enefa Georgewill, Green Isaac, and Arochukwu Ogbonna, urged President Bola Tinubu’s government to halt the divestment process until comprehensive reviews are conducted, ensuring environmental restoration and community compensation. They emphasized the need for enhanced regulatory oversight and assessment of new operators’ capabilities. The groups also expressed their lack of trust in the capacity of the new consortium, Renaissance, made up of mainly locally owned companies, to adequately manage the risks side of the oil business. They cited the recent oil and gas fumes spill from a wellhead in Santa Barbara Bayelsa State, operated by Aiteo, and its inability to contain the leakage for about a month until they enlisted the service of Halliburton and Boots and Coots to seal off the leaks.

Shell is reported to have finalized a deal to divest its Nigerian onshore subsidiary, The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), to a consortium comprising five companies, for a total of $2.4 billion. The consortium is comprised of ND Western, Aradel Energy, First E&P, Waltersmith, and Petrolin. However, the completion of the transaction is contingent upon approvals from the Federal Government of Nigeria and other conditions.

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