Amnesty International says Nigeria must block Shell asset sale now

In response to Shell Plc’s proposed $1.3 billion sale of its onshore oil business in Nigeria to Renaissance Africa Energy, civil society groups, spearheaded by Amnesty International, are urging the Nigerian government to intervene. They argue that the sale should be halted until adequate safeguards for human rights and environmental protection are established.

In a detailed report released on Monday, 40 organizations, including Amnesty International, outlined specific conditions that must be met before approving the sale.

These conditions include conducting an environmental assessment of pollution in the area, ensuring funds are allocated for cleanup efforts, and engaging in meaningful consultation with local communities.

Emphasizing the importance of prioritizing human rights and environmental concerns during such transactions, the groups insist on concrete measures to mitigate potential harm.

Isa Sanusi, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director, expressed concerns about the risk of Shell profiting from the sale while neglecting its responsibility to address existing pollution and prevent future harm to communities. He stressed the need for guarantees and financial safeguards to address contamination and protect people’s health before allowing the sale to proceed.

Amnesty International highlighted several regulatory and legal deficiencies in the deal, including the absence of an environmental study to assess cleanup requirements and inadequate provisions for decommissioning oil infrastructure.

They also raised concerns about the lack of an inventory of the physical assets being sold, which could indicate the poor state of pipelines and infrastructure prone to leaks.

Leaks from oil infrastructure often have severe consequences for local communities, affecting their health and well-being. The groups advocate for every individual’s right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

The delay in regulatory approval for the deal reflects broader challenges in Nigeria’s oil sector, with other major players also awaiting approval for similar asset sales.

Despite initial optimism following President Bola Tinubu’s election in 2023, progress in the sector has been slow, with several deals on hold.

The fate of the Shell-Renaissance Africa Energy deal depends on the Nigerian government’s response to calls for enhanced safeguards and regulatory approval.

The Renaissance consortium, comprising ND Western Limited, Aradel Holdings Plc, First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company Limited, the Waltersmith Group, and the Petrolin Group, awaits the government’s decision.

The proposed sale of Shell’s onshore assets has faced opposition from oil workers represented by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), who question the legitimacy of the acquiring group.

Shell’s decision to divest its Nigerian onshore assets dates back to 2021, driven by challenges such as theft and oil spills conflicting with its long-term energy transition strategy.

The process faced setbacks, including a lawsuit in Nigeria’s Supreme Court, halting asset sales until a dispute with a Niger Delta community concerning alleged pollution was resolved.

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