Amnesty International questions Nigeria’s choice of Shell evaluators

Abuja, Nigeria — Human rights group Amnesty International raised concerns Friday about the Nigerian government’s hiring of two firms with past dealings with Shell to assess the proposed $2.4 billion sale of the company’s onshore assets in the Niger Delta.

Amnesty said the choice cast doubt on the independence and transparency of the process and called again for accountability in the proposed sale.

Amnesty described the hiring of the Boston Consulting Group, or BCG, and S&P Global by the Nigerian oil regulator as “concerning,” saying the firms are in business with Shell.

Amnesty said S&P Global plays a role in rating Shell’s debt and credit worthiness, while BCG performs a variety of services for Shell.

Amnesty’s Isa Sanusi said that BCG and S&P could be influenced by their commercial interests and that they may become lenient in their review of problems caused by Shell’s activities.

“I don’t think that it is possible for these companies to be independent,” Sanusi said. “In fact, the whole exercise of assessing Shell’s plan has now been jeopardized by this conflict of interest. There’s no way a company working for Shell can be hired to examine the books of Shell. I don’t think that is right.”

In January, Shell announced plans to sell its onshore properties to a local consortium of five companies for $2.4 billion. Shell said the move would enable it to focus on more-profitable offshore business as it plans to transition away from fossil fuels.

But the proposed sale has sparked concern among environmental and human rights activists calling on authorities to delay the deal until a review of Shell’s activities and assets in the region is done.

The groups say years of exploration by Shell have caused massive environmental damage and a loss of livelihoods for residents.

Energy expert Emmanuel Afimia agreed with Amnesty International, saying, “The consultants have existing relationships with Shell. This might compromise the consultants’ ability to conduct an impartial review.

“We need to understand that the independence of these consultants is crucial to ensure a fair assessment, and their ties to Shell could undermine trust in the process,” she said.

Nigerian law mandates Shell provide money for cleanup and decommissioning of its assets before exiting.

But Shell, like other foreign energy firms, has often blamed sabotage and theft for oil spills. Earlier this year, the company released on its website a list of eight cleanup operations it planned to carry out — all for spills of less than 100 barrels of oil.

Amnesty said that unless the right thing is done, enormous human rights risks are at stake.

“There must be an examination of all the environmental liabilities, community liabilities and human rights liabilities,” Sanusi said. “Shell has to pay for it before going ahead to sell its assets in the region. It is about human life, and that should be the priority of Nigerian authorities.”

In March, the Netherlands-based nonprofit Center for Research on Multinational Corporations accused Shell of trying to avoid responsibility for oil spills and warned that if allowed, it could set a negative example for other foreign firms seeking to leave the Niger Delta.

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