ERA/FoEN demands legislative action to hold divesting IOCs accountable 

Port Harcourt — The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, has charged the National Assembly to start a legislative process that will hold IOCs accountable for environmental damages in the Niger Delta, and also established an Environmental Restoration Fund to tackle the issues of pollution before any divestment by the oil companies.

Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, said IOCs operating in the country have lost the right to simply divest their operations in Nigeria, and should not be allowed to leave the communities they have subjected to environmental and human rights abuses, without addressing the issues.\

Williams, speaking at a webinar with the theme, “Time for a Legislative Pathway on IOC Divestment in the Niger Delta” stated that the divesting IOCs were not leaving Nigeria as they want the public to believe, but were only moving offshore where their operations cannot be monitored and their environmental crimes could remain hidden.

He said ERA/FoEN was leading the campaigns against IOC divestments in the Niger Delta due to the impacts of oil exploration on the local people in host communities, lamenting that ancestral lands have been taken away from the people, waters polluted, farmlands destroyed and livelihoods eroded in these communities, subjecting them to untold poverty.

“Oil companies are at liberty to dispose of their assets as permitted by the law, but as they have caused damages to the people and their environment, there are requirements that must be met. The environment must be returned to status quo, and the livelihood of the people restored, before divesting.

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“They must settle the crisis which they have caused with their divide-and-rule style they introduced to the communities, as one of the antics they used to overshadow the voice of the people. Rather than being a blessing to Nigeria, oil has become a curse to the people of Nigeria, unlike other oil-producing countries in the world.”

On the benefits of divestment to the country since  the assets were being sold to Nigerian companies,” Williams stated.

He further said, “IOCs could not manage the environmental issues caused by their operations, despite their financial and technological muscles; which questions the ability of indigenous companies to handle the environmental crisis with their limited financial power and technological strength.”

Also, the Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Research and Development Center, SERDC, Tijani  Abdulkareem, drew attention to the euphoria about the discovery of oil in Bauchi and Gombe States, revealing that tensions were already building up in the local communities over the actual locations of the oil.

Abdulkareem stated that a recent town hall meeting organized by ERA/FoEN which was held in Bauchi state exposed to the people the social impacts of oil exploration, even before the environmental impacts began.

“The discovery of oil is already creating tension between Bauchi and Gombe states because the oil wells are within the boundaries of Bauchi and Gombe states. Because of that, there is already a conflict going on among the border communities on who really owns the oil wells.

“Because of the oil derivation funds at the federal level, people are seeing oil as a blessing but are ignorant of the effects of oil exploration on human rights. If you go to these communities in Alkari and some parts of Adoh in Gombe, the idea of oil as a blessing is changing every day because of the social impacts on the people, rising from the attitudes of the oil workers, immorality, slave burden on community youths, kidnapping, boundary tensions, land grabbing and other issues,” he said.

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Abdulkareem called for more engagements from civil society organizations, community-based organizations and the media to ensure that human rights and the environment of the people in Northern communities with crude oil were protected.

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