The wave of divestment by oil and gas companies manifesting in companies selling off their assets in the Niger Delta is raising deep concerns as these companies’ intent to move further into the deep appears to be attempts to avoid regulatory oversight and accountability. The companies seek to heap the burden of the pollution, health issues, and degradation caused by their activities on the communities.

Our School of Ecology on Blue Economy, Divestment and the End of Fossil Age, which held on the 26th and 27th of September in Uyo, Akwa Ibom Nigeria, x-rayed the technicalities and politics of the Blue Economy concept and the dangers of divestment by IOCs on impacted communities.

Blue Economy as a term sounds beautiful, but in reality aims to commoditize the world’s oceans and water bodies, according to Nnimmo Bassey.

Bassey further talked about the “Ending the Fossil Age” he noted that “Peoples’ recurrent concerns of how we can run the world without fossil fuels fail to recognize the fact that the fossil fuel age has not lasted more than 200 years and that the petroleum civilization will end just as previous civilizations ended. Unfortunately, as the fossil age is coming to end corporations are digging for more fossils in Africa where oil companies plan to sink $230 billion in the next decade on new oil and gas projects and $1.4 trillion by 2050.” Recently, Nigeria signed an MoU with Morocco proposing to build a 5,600 kilometers gas pipeline to begin from Brass and end in Europe, even as we are yet to begin the cleanup of the mess in the Niger Delta.

Ken Henshaw, the Executive Director of We the People, spoke on “Examining Policies and Policy Frameworks for Oil Companies in Nigeria.” He noted in his presentation that “The fear of accountability and rising court losses to victims and communities is making these companies run away. Oil extraction is tremendously challenging for communities, this is why we need to take action before these companies leave. We must stand on no divestment without restoration; put an end to gas flaring and its health impacts on ecosystem and humans”

Prof. Sofri Peterside in his presentation noted that the official announcement of the transmutation of the NNPC company into a public limited company, created a number of expectations., In his paper titled “Privatization of the NNPC: Socio-Economic Implications,” he stressed that “one of implications of the transmutation into NNPC Ltd. is that NNPC Ltd will no longer contribute to Single Treasury Account, even though the ownership of NNPC is vested in the government.”. His conclusion was that the change will create more problems for the nation as it was more of nomenclature change than the much needed accountability and restructuring.

Participants at the School of Ecology noted that there is no serious indications that the world is ready to move from the fossil age and work towards a transformation in economic models and energy modes. The prognosis on Nigeria’s approach to climate action, reform in the petroleum extraction sector as well as the Blue Economy raised more cause for concern.

The SoE noted that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) fails to account for climate change, energy transition, and a true overhaul of Nigeria’s petroleum industry. The PIA promotes investments that may not yield the expected returns as the world decarbonizes as a lot of those funds could have been used to address social needs or invest in renewables. For oil-producing and impacted communities, divestment means more remote possibilities of holding corporations accountable for pollution, as well as fewer economic opportunities for communities.

The following recommendations were made:

  1. Review the National Energy Transition Plan and make it compatible with imperatives of decarbonization
  2. Nigerian citizens and climate activists must continue to denounce the presentation of fossil gas as a bridge fuel
  3. Strengthen our movement to resist the new wave of green washing and market environmentalism that is sweeping over Africa.
  4. We cannot solve problems created by the failure of markets. The carbon-budget-centric approach to Nigeria’s climate change response is all about false solutions such as carbon offsets, geoengineering, Carbon Capture and Sequestration.
  5. . There shouldn’t be any discussion on divestment without an inclusion of the host communities. If this move happens without cleaning and restoration of impacted communities, these communities will be left stranded with pollution and degraded environment. This move as well as the Blue Economy concept if enforced will impact mostly on community people who are predominantly fishers and farmers.
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