THE PROPOSED SALE of Shell’s onshore oil business in the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria risks worsening human rights abuses and should be blocked by the government unless a series of safeguards are put in place, says a group of 40 civil society organisations, including Amnesty International.

In an open letter to the Nigerian industry regulator, the signatories said the sale of Shell Petroleum Development Company to Renaissance Africa Energy should not be allowed to proceed unless the environmental pollution it caused has been fully assessed, it provides sufficient funds to guarantee clean-up costs, and local communities have been fully consulted.

The letter highlights how the deal appears to fall far short of several regulatory and legal requirements including the apparent lack of an environmental study to assess clean-up requirements, and an evaluation to ensure sufficient funds are set aside for potential decommissioning of oil infrastructure – a sum likely to amount to several billions of US dollars.

It also notes the lack of an inventory of the physical assets being sold, which potentially indicates the state of disrepair of pipelines and infrastructure that caused leaks which have frequently had devastating consequences on local people’s health and wellbeing.

Isa Sanusi, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director, said: ​“There is now a substantial risk Shell will walk away with billions of dollars from the sale of this business, leaving those already harmed without remedy and facing continued abuse and harms to their health.

​“Guarantees and financial safeguards must be in place to immediately remedy existing contamination and to protect people from future harms before this sale should be allowed to proceed. Shell must not be permitted to slip away from its responsibilities for cleaning up and remedying its widespread legacy of pollution in the area.”

​Olanrewaju Suraju, chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda , commented: “Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta over many decades have come at the cost of grievous human rights abuses of the people living there. Frequent oil leaks from its infrastructure and inadequate maintenance and clean-up practices have left groundwater and drinking water sources contaminated, poisoned agricultural land and fisheries, and severely damaged the health and livelihoods of inhabitants.”

There have been hundreds of oil spills from Shell infrastructure during the decades it has been operating in Nigeria.

​Renaissance Africa Energy is a consortium consisting of ND Western Limited, Aradel Holdings Plc, FIRST Exploration and Petroleum Development Company Limited, the Waltersmith Group and the Petrolin Group.

* The open letter with a full list of signatories is available here.

* Read  more about oil spills in the Niger Delta here.

* Source: Amnesty International