For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

IOCs Divestment in Nigeria, a Fallacy-ERA/FOE

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

Environmental activists on the platform of the African People’s Counter Cop (APCC) presented by the Africa Climate Justice collectives (ACJC) and the Environment Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth, Nigeria have described the current divestment plans of oil giants in Nigeria as a fallacy

Speaking during a webinar with the theme ‘International Oil Companies(IOCs) Divestment Campaigns in Africa’, the activist stressed the need for the International Oil giants to engage the standard operating procedures (SOPs) in line with global standards.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director Chima Williams in his remarks said the Nigeria campaign on Deepening Conversations for Review of International IOCs Divestment Processes and the Nigeria Energy Transition Plan under the Energy Transition Fund (ETF) seeks to escalate growing agitations for policy level intervention to address the anomalies in the Niger Delta, particularly IOCs failure to take responsibility for the cost of oil in affected communities.

He explained that the campaign on divestment which started in 2021 has strengthened civil society and there is now a growing advocacy for policy-level laws to halt new oil exploration activities and new oil fields.

According to him, a major legal precedent was achieved by stopping Shell and Exxon Mobil from divesting onshore holdings pending a suit instituted by impacted communities in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta

In his words “Divestment  in itself is not a bad thing, but the way it is being run in Nigeria is a fallacy which must be re-dressed”

“If you cannot leave us better than you met us don’t leave us worse” he said, stressing the need for oil mining giants to leave the communities they have polluted.

Defining divestment as the removal of all investments from dirty energies and investing in renewable energy. The Environmental champion noted that in Nigeria divestment implies leaving on shore to deep offshore or shallow waters as practiced by global standards that was not the case in Nigeria and is not in line with the global concept of divestment.

He posited that as a concept In Nigeria it is agreed he who owns an asset has a right to dispose it whichever way he wants, however as activist they have added a caveat saying ‘” For companies to divest, they must take host communities into cognisance and ensure if they cannot leave them better, they must not leave them worse than they met them

“Divestment in the real sense is a good thing but in the way it is being done in Africa by multinationals is turning it upside down and expecting it to work. It is a fallacy and not correct the way it is being done.” He said

He argued that the argument for divestment by AGIP following OANDOs purchase of the oil giants was based on three factors which include the many successful ligations both locally and international on the oil giants, the failure of the divide and rule mantra which they had previously operated and awareness of host communities demanding analysis of how vandalisation of oil activities have been higher from 2021 till date

He maintained that with current realities, OANDO was incapable of meeting SOPs on divesting

ERA/FoEN Programme Manager and Project Coordinator, Climate Justice and Energy of Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA), Ubrei Joe Mariere, explained that there are about 20 processes that companies must fulfil for a divestment process to be deemed complete. They include transition planning, due diligence, and legal consultation among others. He however alleged  that these processes are not followed by companies like Shell, TotalEnergies and of recent Eni in their divestment plans in the Niger Delta.

Ubrei-Joe revealed that the Leave Oil in the Soil Campaign championed by ERA/FoEN and the global climate justice federation is a strategy to pressure governments to pull resources away from dirty energy and invest them instead in clean energy projects.

Meanwhile, senior manager, Climate Energy and Justice Campaign, Groundwork South Africa

Yegeshi Moodley, stated that South Africa has its own share of misrepresentation of divestment even though Section 24 of the South African constitution affirms the right to the environment. According to her companies like TotalEnergies, Renergen and Rhino Oil and Gas are on the forefront of fossil fuel projects that local communities are now resisting.

Moodley stressed the fact that most of the mineral resources belt in South Africa including the offshore have been partitioned and carved up by IOCs encouraged and protected by the South African governments. She added however that farmers and community people are strategically challenging.

Similarly, Kwami Kpondzo, executive director of the Center for Environmental Justice in Togo pointed out that the divestment engagements in Togo have a particular uniqueness because the country’s government believes that the energy mix must include fossil fuels. He went on to add that fishermen and communities around where extraction happens are now at the forefront in demands that the government remain committed only to transiting to clean and affordable renewables.

The webinar was attended by climate activists, grassroots communities and media representatives across Africa.

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