NIGER DELTA WOMEN PROTEST: SAYS NO TO DIVESTMENT WITHOUT ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION 

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CBN

By Precious Ahiakwo

 

The announcement by Shell to sell off their on-shore assets to investors is not going down well with some women in the Niger Delta Region.

 

CBN

Some community-based women organizations and environmentalists under the umbrella of Alauchi Women Development Initiative, Mba Okase Women, Eleme, Abua Women Association, Coalition of Ogoni Women Development Initiative , Pius Dukor Foundation, Kallop Environmental Centre, led by Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre have staged a peaceful protest to the Rivers State government House, to express profound dismay at the announcement by Shell to sell off their on-shore assets to investors without conducting necessary consultations with communities that have endured decades of environmental destruction from their operations.

Leader of the protest and founder of the Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, Emem Okon, represented by a board member Constance Meju, explained that “It has come to our attention that plans are ongoing by Shell PLC to sell their shares in Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to a consortium of investors, Renaissance Africa Energy. OML 34 had already been divested to ND Western; OML 17 and OML 29 have been divested without proper guidelines. Additionally, Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Exxon Mobil Nigeria Limited, and Total Energy Nigeria Limited, are poised to divest all their onshore assets without engaging host communities and rectifying the damages done to the environment and the well-being of peoples. They are attempting to evade responsibility!”

“As affected women in the Niger Delta, we are deeply concerned about the swift nature of these divestment plans, as the government has not provided guidelines to ensure the resolution of pollution issues before SPDC, AGIP, and Total Energies depart. The corporations involved have failed to establish women development funds to support those who have borne the consequences of their oil extraction activities.

In the Niger Delta, women bear the brunt of oil exploitation, facing deprivations due to environmental degradation. They play vital roles in securing the family’s subsistence income through agricultural activities, processing farm produce, and engaging in trade. The ecological degradation caused by oil extraction forces women to navigate polluted swamps for their economic activities, leading to a decline in crop yields and increased poverty”.

 

The community based women group in a communiqué shortly after the protest called on government to ensure Shell takes responsibility and clean up polluted farmlands in affected areas.

 

“We, the women, are in the dark regarding the reputations of the new companies acquiring the assets of Shell, AGIP, and Exxon Mobil. We implore the government, whom we hold in high esteem, not to approve the divestment plans until polluted farmlands are cleaned up and restored by these companies. Gas flares persist in Ebocha, Ibeno, Umuechem, and other areas, with communities like Otuabagi still grappling with the impacts of oil extraction. Farming, fishing, and hunting have been severely affected, leading to health problems among women exposed to hydrocarbons.

 

This divestment is not in the interest of the community people, and we condemn the attempt by International Oil Corporations to shirk responsibility under the guise of selling assets. We call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ensure NO DIVESTMENT WITHOUT ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION!”.

 

The communiqué signed collectively by the community based group leaders demands that government must mandate companies divesting their oil assets to commit to cleaning all polluted sites in the Niger Delta and restore lost livelihood opportunities.

 

“We vehemently reject IRRESPONSIBLE DIVESTMENT and demand that the Rivers State Governor obtains a court injunction to halt the sale of any assets related to this matter. We are saying no to IRRESPONSIBLE DIVESTMENT!”, the statement reads.

 

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