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ABUJA, Nigeria — Shell’s recent announcement of a $2.4 billion deal to sell its onshore business in Nigeria’s Niger Delta has sparked environmental concerns, adding to the longstanding grievances over pollution caused by the oil industry in the region.
The transaction, aimed at streamlining Shell’s operations in Nigeria, comes amid ongoing criticism of the company’s role in oil spills that have adversely impacted rivers, farms, and exacerbated tensions in an area already marked by years of militant violence.
Zoe Yujnovich, Shell’s Integrated Gas and Upstream Director, stated, “This agreement marks an important milestone for Shell in Nigeria, aligning with our previously announced intent to exit onshore oil production in the Niger Delta.” The move is part of Shell’s strategy to simplify its portfolio and focus on deepwater and integrated gas positions.
The buying consortium, Renaissance, comprises ND Western, Aradel Energy, First E&P, Waltersmith, and Petrolin. Shell will receive an initial payment of $1.3 billion, with an additional $1.1 billion to follow.
However, environmental activists and local communities in the Niger Delta are raising concerns about the potential environmental impact of the sale. Ledum Mitee, a veteran environmental activist, expressed concern about legacy issues, especially environmental and decommissioning matters, urging transparent resolution before granting approval for divestment.
The assets being sold, largely owned by the Nigerian government’s national oil company NNPC (55% stake), require government approval to finalize the deal. Shell operates the assets and owns a 30% stake, with TotalEnergies holding 10% and Eni holding 5%.
The assets include 15 onshore mining leases and three shallow-water operations. The Niger Delta, heavily dependent on petroleum resources, has faced severe environmental challenges, affecting clean water access, agriculture, and fishing, leading to heightened tensions in the region.
Fyneface Dumnamene, Director of the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, urged the Nigerian government to demand a comprehensive plan from Shell and the new buyers to address environmental damage and compensate affected communities before granting approvals.
In response to concerns, Shell assured the Associated Press that the sale is designed to preserve the company’s role in conducting remediation as the operator of the joint venture, addressing spills from past operations. However, activists and environmentalists remain vigilant, emphasizing the need for transparency and accountability in dealing with the environmental impact of oil operations in the Niger Delta.