The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has commended the Akwa Ibom State Government over its lawsuit against ExxonMobil Producing Unlimited to stop the multinational corporation from divesting its onshore and shallow offshore assets in the state without the consent of the government and people of the state.
In a statement issued from its international headquarters in Benin City, Edo State, on Monday, March 28, 2022, and made available to EnviroNews, the organisation recalled that it has been working with local communities and the polluted oil rich Niger Delta region to demand for proper and appropriate cleanup and restoration of all impacted lands, forests, rivers and waterways.
“We have also been consistently calling for the payment of appropriate compensation to victims of such incidents and the federal government establishment of $100 billion cleanup and restoration fund before any multinational oil company is allowed to divest or move away from the region,” said Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN.
He added: “There exists a legacy of environmental degradation, pollution, destruction of rural livelihoods, and injustice in all oil-bearing communities and these historic crimes against local communities and their ecosystems must be addressed by the polluting multinational oil companies before they can be allowed to leave.”
Hence there is a need “for environmental and social impact assessment and audit before any divestment can occur.” He stated further that, “by seeking to divest in such a surreptitious manner, ExxonMobil is seeking to run away from its mess and liabilities and attempting to have its cake and eat it.”
The group recalled that, in November 2021, an oil facility belonging to Aiteo located in Nembe, Bayelsa State, spilled oil and gas into the Nembe creek for over one month and burnt down a large expanse of vegetation farmlands and crops around the length of the creek.
“This spill has been described as one of the worst spills in Nigeria in recent memory. Aiteo a local Oil and Gas Company paid hundreds of millions of premium dollars to Shell for this facility that has now been shown to be ill maintained, old and decrepit. Aiteo has reportedly sued Shell for failure to fully disclose the state of disrepair of the facilities it sold to it and for the accident that occurred as a result.”
Mike Karikpo, Director, Programmes and Administration at ERA/FoEN, called on government at all levels, local communities and local companies “not to be lulled into inaction by multinational oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell whose modus operandi in Nigeria has always been profit over life, ecosystems and rural livelihoods.”
ERA/FoEN believes that oil should be left in the ground and a sincere and just transition initiative to clean renewable energy that is environmentally friendly would serve local communities and ecosystems better in the long run. A post petroleum economy for Nigeria is expedient now, added the group.