Federal government and the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the Niger Delta region, have been charged to restore the devastated environment before divesting offshore.
The appeal was made by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), We The People, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in reaction to the move by the IOCs from onshore to offshore.
Executive Director of group, Mr. Ken Henshaw, made the call during a divestment conference with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the media and oil-producing communities, held in Port Harcourt.
Henshaw said there was no divestment without restoring the devastated Niger Delta environment.
He disclosed that in the past three months, a team of researchers visited and held meetings with oil producing communities on the plan of major oil companies to sell their assets and leave the region through divestment.
Henshaw regretted that their findings showed that the affected communities were not properly briefed on planned actions by the IOCs.
Speaking further, Henshaw said, though their demand was that the oil should be left in the ground, but Niger Delta people do not want the oil companies to leave their pollution on the soil and move offshore.
The group regretted that after over 64 years oil operation in the region, the companies (IOCs) could not be held accountable for their devastated activities in the area.
He stressed that Federal Government has a responsibility to hold the IOCs liable for all the damages done in the area.
Henshaw expressed: “The conversation today, was on the divestment move by the multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta.
“Since 2010, we have noticed oil companies selling off their onshore assets and leaving the Niger Delta region. This move has intensified since 2020, 2021 and 2022. The bottom line is this that, Total, Chevron, Exxonmobil and Shell companies that have operated in Niger Delta between 60 and 64 years, are all selling off their assets and are walking away and leaving the region.
“Our theory in this regard is that, after extracting crude oil here from the Niger Delta region with devastating environmental impacts, it is impossible to leave. You need to fix the years of the ecological damage you have done.
“The activities of crude oil has not been neutral in Niger Delta. Yes, there has been millions of dollars for the Nigerian state but they also caused devastating environment and impacts. For example; all the companies have flared gas from the very start of their activities, they have been culpable in oil spills, destroyed the Rivers and lands of the Niger Delta region.
“On account of oil exploration, people have gotten poorer, livelihood, fishing and farming life have been lost. All these companies are culpable and our argument is that, if we have had 64 years of oil extraction, then, it also makes sense that we must have a short period to carry out the assessment to exactly know what oil extraction has bequeathed to the people in the Niger Delta region.
“Our demand is simple, that we must have a health audit of the impaired impact oil extraction on the people of the region. If people in the past 64 years have been inhaling poisoned air by hydrocarbon because of gas flaring, eaten food and drank water poisoned by hydrocarbon on account of oil spills, had disease of epidemics on account of acid rain fallen on their skin, having increased respiratory symptoms, does it not make sense that we spend sometimes to document what the health impact has been and find a way to address them before these companies leaves.
“The UNEP report stated that it will take about $1million to start off the cleanup of Ogoniland and this will amount to the biggest remediation exercise ever embarked by man and it will take between 25 and 30 years. This is just in four local government areas of Ogoniland. Then, imagine the over 200 LGAs of the Niger Delta region, where oil had been extracted from for the past 64 years.”
Henshaw added: “In every other parts of the Niger Delta region, the oil companies are packing away and leaving and nobody will be responsible for cleaning off the mess they have made. Our argument are simple, we need to carry out an health impact assessment, ecological impact assessment and environmental impact assessment of the heritage of oil extraction in the Niger Delta region and find out if these companies who are divesting, selling off assets and running offshore have fixed the damage they have made.”