A non-governmental organisation under the We the People’s criticized oil companies for hastily divesting their onshore oil and gas assets and stated that it was an attempt to avoid responsibility for damaging the environment and people’s health over several years.
According to The Punch, the group’s executive director, Ken Henshaw, presented a report at a press conference in Uyo, titled “Dirty Exit” and claimed that oil companies were selling their assets due to increasing pressure for justice and accountability.
Henshaw urged the government to enforce a ban on divestment and to create a framework in collaboration with civil societies and host communities on how oil companies should withdraw from areas where they have worked.
The proposed framework should include a scientifically developed post-hydrocarbon impact assessment report that outlines the exact ecological and livelihood effects of oil extraction, as well as recommendations for remediation, compensation, and sustainable restoration of affected communities.
He said, “For communities in the Niger Delta, there is finally the opportunity to hold oil companies accountable for decades of destruction.
“It is anxiety over these mounting demands for justice that is driving international oil companies to divest. In the thinking of these oil companies, selling off their assets will technically pass the buck of responsibility for fixing their mess to Nigerian firms who are ignorantly buying them.
“For occupied communities who have lost everything to oil extraction in the last 6 decades, what oil companies are doing is not divestment, but criminal flight, attempting to abdicate responsibility for several years of poisoning the environment and people of the Niger Delta. They must never be allowed to simply run off.
“The federal government needs to immediately produce a framework and guide for how oil companies disengage from areas where they have operated. This guide should be developed by a multi-stakeholder group including communities and civil society organisations.”
“The federal government should immediately place a moratorium on all oil company divestment in the Niger Delta, pending the ascertaining of issues of community concern.”
The executive director stated that the organisation is prepared to take legal action against the oil companies and the federal government if the issues regarding the rushed divestment and lack of accountability are not addressed.
The public affairs manager of ExxonMobil, Ugochukwu Udeagha, responded to the concerns raised by We the People by explaining that the divestment is actually a share sale, as the shareholders of MPN are selling their shares.
He emphasized that it is important for people to understand that it is not an asset sale, and this was clearly stated in the press release issued during the signing of the share purchase agreement.