Nigerians challenge Shell over meddling in internal affairs

10 Mar 2010 admin

After Shell’s highly-publicised “threat” to leave Nigeria given a current Petroleum Bill being discussed in Parliament that would re-assess excessive corporate revenues, Environmental Rights Action based in Benin City and Port Harcourtresponds:

“The foremost environmental rights advocacy organization in Nigeria, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), has accused the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major, Shell, of not being a good corporate citizen in the country.

ERA claimed in a statement on Monday that the warning by Shell that Nigeria’s declining oil output will be aggravated if the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed into law was an attempt to frustrate the move by the country to bring sanity into the sector and recover some level of sovereignty in relation to the resource.

The oil majors prefer to perpetrate the existing unfair relationships, remain unaccountable, operate in impunity and evade taxes and public scrutiny. “Shell’s ploy should be disregarded by the Federal Government”, ERA said in a statement wired to our correspondent by its Media Officer, Mr. Philip Jakpor

The group’s position is coming in the wake of widely publicized reports in the media indicating that Shell is suspending new investments in Nigeria, especially in the deep offshore where the PIB stipulates conditions that will benefit the nation.

Along with the American oil giants, ExxonMobil and Chevron, Shell has voiced its opposition to key sections of the PIB which ERA says allow the Federal Government to renegotiate old contracts, impose higher costs on oil companies and reclaim oil fields that oil companies are yet to explore.

“The companies will also be forced to give back unused land from existing oil licenses to provide new investors an opportunity to operate in Nigeria”, the group said.

Ann Pickard, Shell Regional Executive Vice President last week in Abuja warned that proposals to impose tougher terms on oil companies as part of the sweeping reforms in Nigeria’s oil industry designed to reverse years of stagnation would be ruinous. This has always been her sign song and is nothing new.

But ERA is depicting the warnings as “sinister, selfish and well-timed” and targeted at forcing the Nigerian government to back down on legislations that will guarantee improved revenue, transparency and accountability.

“We refuse this attempt to meddle in our internal affairs. Shell’s sloganeering on Nigeria’s declining oil output and the sustained publicity blitz on plans to divest from the country is a calculated arm-twisting tactic to get the Nigerian government to back down on laws that will make the oil companies accountable to the Nigerian people,” said ERA Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.

assey posited that: “Oil majors operating in Nigeria’s oil industry have always been economical when it comes to disclosure about oil revenues, gas flaring and environmental justice in host communities. ERA strongly commends the courage of community people, civil society groups and some of our lawmakers at the National Assembly whose resilience in reversing the status quo has resulted in this attempt to blackmail the nation economically.”

According to Bassey, Niger Delta communities are particularly irked that there is a conscious attempt by Shell and a profiteering cabal in the oil industry to ensure that provisions in the PIB do not allow for communities to be notified of risks or seek their endorsement of environmental management plans.

“The National Assembly must refuse this distraction and speedily pass the PIB, taking into account civil society inputs reinforcing sections pertaining to Health, Safety, Environment and community participation. This section must reflect clearly and unequivocally that without the communities, environmental plans are superficial and defensive only of the interests of business concerns.”

He explained that ERA’s position also aligns with that of well-meaning Nigerians who have said there is also need for redrafting of the section on Environmental Remediation Levy which requires states and local governments to pay one and 0.5 per cent of their annual derivation allocation into a Remediation Fund to restore the environment in cases of damage resulting from sabotage since oils spill are not as a result of sabotage, but a result of negligence of the oil companies.

“We totally reject Shell’s media whitewash on declining oil revenues. The PIB should be expeditiously passed into law and applied in operations in the oil and gas sector. This will help ensure better environmental protection, better revenue returns and accountability. For us, the PIB is primarily about the management of existing fields while Nigeria rapidly moves to a post-petroleum regime with a halt to new oil field activities that have so far been the alchemists pot brewing corruption, violence and unimaginable degradation of the Niger Delta,” Bassey stressed.”

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