By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Civil society groups on the platform of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF have condemned the sale of Agip Oil to Oando, demanding that the company must address concerns bordering on ecological and social impacts of its operations in the Niger Delta.
This was the position of several CSO leaders including Nnimmo Bassey, Health or Mother Earth Foundation, Ken Henshaw, of We The People, Iniruo Wills, Bayelsa State, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, Chima Williams, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Emem Okon, Kebetkatche Women Development and Resource Centre, Tijah Bolton, Policy Alert, Umoh Isua, Peace Point Development Foundation, Anino Atsekurubu- Social Action and Henry Eferegbo, Niger Delta Network for Environmental Justice
In a statement, jointly signed by them, they said “ We vehemently condemn the acquisition of oil assets of Agip by Oando PLC. We assert that prior to any sale of oil assets, the company must address several cases and concerns bordering on the ecological, health, economic, and social impacts of its operations in the Niger Delta.
“Our demands and recommendations are that the federal government should immediately place a moratorium on all oil company divestment (or sale of assets) in the Niger Delta, pending
the ascertaining of issues of community concern, that the federal government needs to immediately produce a framework and guide for how oil companies disengage from areas where they have
They further urged that” the guide should be developed by a multi-stakeholder group including communities and civil society organizations. The divestment (or sale) framework must contain the following requirements for oil companies and the Nigeria authorities; A scientifically developed post-hydrocarbon impact assessment report that establishes the exact ecological and livelihood impacts of oil extraction, a health audit of people located in close proximity to extraction sites, and others exposed to oil contamination and gas flaring. This audit will aim at unravelling the negative health impacts of exposure to hydrocarbons. A detailed plan and costing for remediating the ecological, livelihood and health impacts of extraction and the establishment of independent frameworks for remediating all identified impacts and compensation to the impacted individuals and Communities”
The activists who said they recognize that firms have the right to dispose of their assets as they see fit, said they were worried about the way in which this transaction is being carried out, as well as the immediate and long-term ramifications for communities and the cause of ecological justice. We are particularly concerned about the following issues:
They alleged that throughout its operations, Agip has consistently flared gas, wreaking havoc on the health, livelihoods, and environment of Niger Delta oil-producing communities.
“They noted that the so-called ‘host’ communities in which AGIP has operated for up to six decades are unaware of the impending sale and have not been informed by the firm. They, like the rest of the population, just learned in the news that oil assets situated in their ancestral lands and rivers will be transferred to another company.
They noted that Agip has operated recklessly for decades, leaving terrible ecological and socioeconomic legacies as several investigations had found the corporation and its collaborators responsible for environmental degradation that has destroyed livelihoods, poisoned communities, and created circumstances for human rights violations.
Quoting the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP report on the impacts of hydrocarbon pollution in Ogoniland as a reference to the devastating impact of oil extraction. The report revealed severe contamination of drinking water sources and exposure of communities to health risks. Water was found to contain high levels of cancer-causing benzene 900 times above permitted levels, with at least $ 1 billion and 30 years required to clean the mess. An environmental and social impact report on Bayelsa state indicates that between 2006-2020, Eni (Agip) and SPDC (Shell) accounted for 75% of oil spill incidents in the Niger Delta, which has caused massive health damages, environmental pollution, loss of livelihoods and displacements.
Oil spilt into the river kills off fishes and other aquatic species, sending numerous fishing families into starvation. The same impacts are felt by farmer-folks when the spills occur on land. Communities trace health challenges including unusually early menopause in women, some as young as 25 years old, respiratory and heart-related symptoms, rise in cancer cases, etc. to the impacts of oil extraction, they said