By Edu Abade
Environmental activists from Nigeria have urged stakeholders in the oil and gas sector to emulate the Church of England by pulling out their stakes from Shell and other multinational oil companies to end the mindless destruction of lives and the environmental damage oil and gas exploration activities have caused in the Niger Delta and other parts of Nigeria and Africa.
Speaking in Oslo, Norway at a meeting with the Norwegian Oil Fund (Norges Bank Investment Management-NBIM), Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Reverend David Ugolor, who led a team of environmental crusaders to the meeting, expressed concern that continued exploration of oil and gas in the Niger Delta had brought nothing but suffering, loss of livelihoods, blood and deaths.
“We are sending a strong message to supporters of fossil fuel extraction across the world that change is possible. The Church of England has pulled out of Shell and that is the same message we bring to Oslo that oil and gas explorers are tapping blood money because their activities are causing people to die in their numbers.
“As such we are saying that particularly for the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the oil should be left in the soil, because its exploration and all the trillions of dollars it has generated for the governments in over six decades have not benefited our people in any desirable way. The destruction of nature and the deaths must stop.” he stated.
Citing the Bayelsa Commission Report of May 2023, he said the much avowed cleanup of the Niger Delta, and particularly Ogoniland has been very slow and limited in scope, while the impact on the people’s health had remained huge, especially in the oil producing host communities.
Panelists and participants at the meeting held virtually for select journalists in Nigeria, equally drew attention to the massive pollution and oil theft in Nigeria, ecocide, which they described as massive destruction of ecosystems and a crime against humanity, as well as moves by International Oil Companies (IOCs) to divest from the Niger Delta.
“In the case of Nigeria, exclusion is wider than divestment, but if the IOCs must divest, they should state why and clean up the mess their exploration activities have caused over the years before they divest, if they should. Besides, Shell does not meet the ethical standards of divestment,” they said.
They equally canvassed better, stricter rules of engagement for the fund to push governments and Shell away from divestments, adding that for a better assessment of the Nigerian situation, a team should be constituted to visit impacted sites of the Niger Delta with a view to mitigating the impacts of continued gas flaring and climate change on host communities and their environs.
Earlier, members of the team including Celestine Akpobari Nkabari, leader of Ogoni Solidarity Forum and the Peoples Advancement Centre, Affiah Foh Bridget, Executive Director, Ideal Women Advancement Initiative and Goodluck Odua Macaulay, Campaign Officer, Niger Delta Youth Alliance (NIDYA), expressed the hope that the visit to Norway will provide an opportunity to get a clear response from NBIM about their investment in Shell and their earlier invitation to investors to visit the Niger Delta to assess the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration in the region.
“We are confident that as we bring together civil society organisations in Norway and make way for further work on NBIM around climate change and fossil fuels, we will achieve greater results” Akpobare said.
On her part, Affiah Foh Bridget said: “We hope that our visit to Norway’s capital will be an opportunity for the Oil Fund to provide answers to the current injustices and live up to its ambitions of becoming the “world leading responsible investor.”
It would be recalled that ANEEJ led no fewer than 30 Nigerian Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) representing women, youth, indigenous people and others to write a letter to NBIM’s CEO, Nicolai Tangen in May 2023.
“While claiming to be engaged to change Shell, Norway’s Oil Fund has in fact long provided financial and moral support for the company. Not much has been achieved with the Ogoni cleanup and it seems that the fund is at risk of being misled by Shell and its representatives. The Nigerian groups invited NBIM staff to the Niger Delta on a fact-finding mission to see the true state of affairs,” the letter read.