International oil companies (IOCs) operating in the Niger Delta region have been urged to restore the devastated environment before their divestment to offshore.
A non-governmental organisation, “We The People”, made the call yesterday in Port Harcourt, reacting to the move by the IOCs from onshore to offshore.
Speaking with THISDAY during its divestment conference with civil society organisations, the media and oil producing communities, held in Port Harcourt, the Executive Director of ‘We The People,’ Mr. Ken Henshaw said there would be 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 by major oil companies to sell their assets and leave the region through divestment. He said their findings showed that the affected communities were not properly briefed on planned actions by the IOCs.
The group further regretted that after over 64 years of operation in the region, the companies could not be held accountable for their devastated activities in the area, stressing that the federal government has a responsibility to hold the IOCs liable for all the damages done in the area.
“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 64years of oil extraction, then it also make sense that we must have a short period to carry out the assessment to exactly 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 64years 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 epidermis 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 have been and find a way to address them before these companies leaves.”