sharing in governance of extractive industries

RED ALERT – GNPC must block Shell’s interest in the Jubilee field!

Reuters news on September 2011 indicates that Shell officials have approached Ghana oil officials to express interest in exploring for oil in the country. Mr. Thomas Manu, Director of Operations at Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), was quoted by ghanabusinessnews.com on October 14, 2011 to have said that “talks still ongoing – the licence is for exploration and production but they have to present a paper for review”.

It is significant to mention that as much as Ghana looks for multinational oil giants with technical capabilities, the country should not lose sight of the fact that some oil companies pose serious threats to economies. There is no gainsaying that engaging Shell in the Jubilee field will be dangerous for the economy of Ghana considering the company’s terrible track record in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta.

It is clear investigative reports by organizations and court rulings have implicated Shell in various environmental damages and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta. The 2011 Environmental Assessment Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) into the ecological impact of oil spills in Ogoni has implicated Shell. The report found that Shell fell below its operating standards and covered up the full extent of its pollution. UNEP has recommended an initial fund of $1 billion to start the clean up process in Ogoni.

On 3 August 2011, Shell admitted responsibility to 2 major oil spills in Bodo after a lawsuit was filed against the oil giant in the High Court in London. Shell now faces a compensation claim of $410 million and could be forced to clean up extensive environmental damage. They are yet to clean up the extensive damage.

Again, the 2011 report by Platform, a London-based education and research non-governmental organization, titled “Counting the costs: corporations and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta”, has revealed that Shell played a role in human rights abuses committed by Nigerian government forces and other armed groups between 2000 and 2010.

Shell, according to the report, was behind a civil war in Rumuekpe that occurred between 2005 and 2008 killing least 60 people, including women and children. The report indicates that Shell festered land disputes that pitted local residents against them (Shell) for over a decade. Shell engaged a Youth leader and its Community Liaison Officer Friday Edu to polarise Rumuekpe.

GNPC and the government of Ghana cannot sanction a ‘convict’ to explore oil in the Jubilee field.

Shell engaged in these dastardly acts simply because of weak regulatory frameworks governing oil exploitation. Ghana is not different here. There is no doubt that regulatory frameworks governing the oil and gas industry are lacking and weak. As at now, the Petroleum [Exploration and Production] Bill is yet to be passed by parliament. It is the truth that current regulatory frameworks including the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Law of 1984 (PNDC Law 84) are not strong enough to regulate upstream operations.

Shell is a powerful oil company and would capitalize on weaknesses in the laws for their gain. It is against this backdrop that I call on GNPC to reconsider their decision to award oil block to Shell for exploration.

With the facts presented above, it would be regrettable and disastrous for the country to sanction the operations of Shell in the Jubilee field. Ghana must not engage an oil company that has such a terrible track record regardless of their acclaimed technical expertise. GNPC should drive out Shell!

The nearly fifty years of blatant injustice in Shell’s operation in the Niger Delta needs to be condemned. Shell engaged the military to exact human rights abuses, polluted rivers and hectares of farmlands that were source of livelihood for the people.

It is however simply immature for people to say that Shell’s presence into the country will generate jobs and drive investments. We are been oblivious of the environmental, social and political costs of engaging Shell that could damage the progress of the country. Shell should be admonished to deal with the environmental and social calamities it has caused in the Niger Delta even before attempting exploration in Ghana’s Jubilee field.

SHELL IS NOT FIT TO OPERATE IN THE JUBILEE FIELD. Allowing Shell to operate in the country will be tantamount to gambling with the oil curse. GNPC AND THE GOVERNMENT OF GHANA MUST STOP SHELL!

The campaign against Shell’s operation in Ghana has just begun.

BY: Stephen Yeboah. He can be reached at [stephenyeboah110@yahoo.com]

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