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Rights Groups Call for Review of Shell's Operations in Nigeria Amid Exit Plans

FILE - Crude oil from a Shell pipeline spill accumulates along a riverbank in the Oloma community in the Niger Delta, Nov. 27, 2014.
FILE - Crude oil from a Shell pipeline spill accumulates along a riverbank in the Oloma community in the Niger Delta, Nov. 27, 2014.

Human rights group Amnesty International and other advocacy groups raised concerns Tuesday over British oil giant Shell's sale of its onshore businesses in Nigeria.

Shell announced Tuesday it had concluded plans to sell the assets for $2.4 billion, but Amnesty said authorities should ensure the company addresses decades’ worth of oil spills before closing the deal.

In a post on the social media site X, Amnesty said, "Shell should not be allowed to wash its hands of the problems and leave.”

The international rights group called on Nigerian authorities to request a full assessment of existing pollution from Shell and the state of its infrastructure before allowing them to transfer ownership.

After nearly a century in Nigeria, Shell said it plans to sell its assets to a consortium of mainly local companies. The sales require the approval of Nigerian authorities.

Aminu Hayatu, a conflict researcher at Amnesty International, said the organization has been concerned about environmental degradation in the Niger Delta area.

“Activities of multinational organizations have for quite some time deteriorated that environment, Hayatu said. “Amnesty International is set to really observe the emergence of the new company as well as the leaving of the old ones and the exchanges between government and those companies in terms of their operations in those areas.”

Shell said that it will continue to operate less-challenging offshore businesses and that the new owner, Renaissance, will assume responsibility for the onshore assets.

For decades Shell has struggled with oil spills, vandalism, theft and sabotage in the troubled Niger Delta region, leading to lawsuits against the company.

Faith Nwadishi, founder of the Center for Transparency Advocacy, said, "One of the reasons why Shell is running away is because communities are becoming wiser, more knowledgeable, going to sue Shell in their home country and getting favorable judgment for the community. They're just leaving their liabilities and responsibilities behind for the people who are going to take it up."

Shell's exit from onshore business in Nigeria follows other Western energy companies seeking more viable and profitable operations.

The company said its staff will be retained by the new leadership.

But Nwadishi says concerns remain.

"Anybody that is taking over ... now should know that they're taking over their liabilities,” she said. “These negotiations, did they take into consideration all of those liabilities for cleanup? Did it take into consideration loss and damages to the community? The terms of the negotiation or agreement should actually be made public."

It's not clear how Nigerian authorities will respond.