Shell is accused of attempting to distance itself from the environmental disaster caused by an oil spill in Nigeria

Shell’s oil spills have devastated farmlands and fisheries, and locals are demanding compensation before the company divests its assets.

According to Nigerian environmental activists, Shell is attempting to offload its Nigerian onshore oil business without addressing the environmental damage caused by hundreds of oil spills.

Last month, Shell announced plans to sell its land-based oil business to a consortium of mainly Nigerian oil companies for $1.3 billion, pending approval from the Nigerian government. However, this deal is expected to face legal challenges, similar to those encountered by ExxonMobil in 2022.

Environmentalists and local residents insist that Shell must clean up the contaminated land and water bodies and provide compensation before selling its assets.

Lawyer Steve Bilko, representing oil spill victims, emphasized the importance of Shell fulfilling its responsibilities before exiting Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

Shell has been operating in Nigeria since the 1950s, but its activities have been marred by complaints of pollution and conflicts with local communities. The National Oil Spill Detection Agency (Nosda) attributes most oil spills to sabotage or theft, though Shell remains legally accountable.

In March 2022, Nigeria’s second-highest court halted Shell’s asset sale until a decision was reached on whether the company should pay over $2 billion in compensation for oil spills. However, the Supreme Court later overturned this ruling, allowing Shell to proceed with the sale.

Bilko expressed concerns that the sale could hinder Shell’s ability to meet any legal judgments against it, including orders to clean up polluted areas.

Chima Williams, head of the Nigerian campaign group Environmental Rights Action, suggested that citizens could pursue legal action to prevent the sale until the environment is restored.

Local groups, including the Alliance for the Defence of Eleme and the Ijaw Nation, have opposed the sale and are exploring legal options to stop it.

The consortium set to acquire Shell’s assets, known as Renaissance, includes four Nigerian companies and a firm called Petrolin. While Shell declined to comment, it stated on its website that the new owners would be accountable for cleaning up oil spills.

Shell aims to focus future investments in Nigeria on its Deepwater and Integrated Gas positions, according to its statement.

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