April 16, 2024

NGO, media parley on IOCs divestment in Niger Delta

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Adebayo Obajemu

The Environmental Rights Action (ERA) has made a strong case for the enthronement of a proper regulatory and legal framework to guide International Oil Companies (IOCs) seeking to divest their holdings in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

This was the summary of an interactive webinar held on Thursday between the NGO and some media outlets.

Chima Williams, the executive director of ERA who led the discussion during a virtual meeting on “Legislative Pathway on IOC Divestment in Niger Delta”, said Nigerian lawmakers as a matter of importance must come up with such legislation “that will set up milestones and pathways for divestment”.

He said even though it was the legal right of such companies to divest their holdings in the region, it was essential that they followed legal pathways that would ensure accountability and justice for communities whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by their activities over the years.

“Although these IOCs have every right to divest or sell off their assets in the region, there must be legal pathways that will hold them accountable for the damage done to the environment over the years,” he said, among other things.

“If you cannot leave the communities better than you met them, you should at least leave them the way you met them.”

He added: “We understand the pivotal role that the lawmakers are supposed to do as part of their responsibilities. We want them to come up with legislation that will set up milestones and pathways for divestment. This will include step-by-step activities that every IOC must embark on before they can be allowed to divest.”

Interventions that could guide process of divestment
Mr Williams also outlined some interventions that could guide the process of divestment by such firms.

“One of our recommendations is that such a law should have a provision for an environmental restoration bond to be deposited by both the divesting and investing oil companies so that if any environmental problem occurs, the relevant regulatory body will have enough resources to address it and make our environment healthier and safe for people.”

He lamented the deplorable state of communities in the Niger Delta despite the massive amount of petro-dollars oil firms have earned over 80 years of oil exploration in the region.

“Negativity is the price that we are receiving from oil exploration. Livelihoods are destroyed, environmental pollution is on the increase, and this affects women more,” he said.

“All the problems that the IOCs have created for the community, citizens and the national purse are alarming. It would have been an easy thing if the international firms were ready to address the problems that they have caused.”

He said the organisation will seek to work with the National Assembly to create the necessary legal framework to guide divestment and also provide support for communities seeking to embark on litigation to assert their rights.

Also, Tijani Abdulkareem, the executive director, the Socio-Economic Research and Development Centre, who took part in the webinar lamented the social and environmental impact of oil exploration in the communities, saying it is going beyond the Niger Delta region, with oil being discovered in Bauchi State and other parts of the country.

He said enacting appropriate laws to guide divestment would “address any conflicts that may want to take place in oil-producing communities”.

He charged civil society organisations and the media to forge a “strategic partnership such that the rights, welfare and well-being of citizens of these communities are protected”.

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