By Kelvin Alohan
Policy Alert, an organization working on the front-lines of campaigns for a more transparent and accountable extractive sector governance in Nigeria, has called on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to remove Exxon and Shell oil companies from the International Board of the EITI.
The organization also called on Companies’ constituency to stand down the nominations of the two international oil giants to the EITI Board.
In a letter to the EITI, in which the organization expressed its displeasure and opposition to the nominations of Exxon and Shell, Policy Alert called out both companies as “unqualified, morally and procedurally, to occupy seats on the Board of the world’s super-watchdog on extractive sector governance.”
According to the letter, made available to Extractive360 in a statement, Policy Alert stated that although Exxon is a founding member of the EITI and has been a member of its Board for years, it alleged that “the company has continued to fight against the most basic idea at the heart of the EITI by frustrating efforts of civil society organisations and communities to access timely project-level payment information with which to hold government and companies accountable.”
Tijah Bolton-Apkan, Executive Director of Policy Alert, explained that in February 2020, the organisation wrote to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), lending its voice to calls for passage of a strong version of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act Section 1504 rule.
“We particularly pointed out that the version of the Act proposed at the time risked promoting further opacity and increasing corruption in Nigeria’s extractive industry… Rather than work to strengthen these amendments as an EITI member, Exxon actively lobbied against them, successfully ensuring that the final version of the rule was watered-down to require less disclosure. This was sufficient grounds for the company to lose its seat on the Board but it stayed on,” Tijah said.
Policy Alert also opposed Shell’s nomination on grounds that as the energy transition gathers momentum, resource-rich but poor communities in Nigeria will face double jeopardy dealing with the legacy impacts of Shell’s fossil fuel extraction on their livelihoods and environment.
“They also have to plan their future in the dark, as it were, without access to exit plans by divesting companies such as Shell, who have cited the energy transition as reason for their exit. In fact, Shell is selling off almost $3billion in assets in Nigeria. The company began exploiting these assets decades ago… and is now casually packing its bags to leave, without as much as a word with the communities,” Tijah lamented.
“We see Shell’s programme of divesting its assets in the region as an escape from its Decommissioning and Abandonment (D&A) obligations as provided in the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, and from the responsibility to pay for the audit and restoration of the social and environmental costs that communities have borne as a result of the company’s operations over the years,” he added.
The organization argued that allowing ExxonMobil and Shell continue on the Board of the EITI is a slap on the principles of the EITI and completely ridicules the essence of the EITI, demanding the immediate replacement of Exxon and Shell with other companies that do not carry such anti-EITI baggage.