CSOs Express Dismay Over Nigeria’s Abandonment of OPL 245 Claim Against Eni and Shell

Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, have condemned the indifferent approach of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the abandonment of the OPL 245 Claim against Oil Companies, Eni and Shell. The CSOs in a joint statement signed by prominent civil society advocates, Antonio Tricarico of Re -common, Nicholas Hildyard of Cornerhouse, and Olanrewaju Suraju of HEDA Resource Centre,  raised concerns over the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s decision to abandon its civil claim against Eni and Shell in the controversial OPL 245 oil prospecting license case. The statement expresses dismay at Nigeria’s withdrawal from the promising $1.1 billion civil claim in Italy’s Supreme Court, where the country sought damages from the oil multinationals for alleged corruption in the OPL 245 deal, which is said to have severely disadvantaged Nigeria.

Despite Eni and Shell, along with 13 other defendants, being acquitted of corruption charges in the First Instance court in Milan, the statement highlights international criticism of the verdict. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued an unprecedented statement, describing the acquittal as not conforming to the Anti-bribery Convention and expressing “extreme concern” over the court’s rejection of evidence.

The signatories expressed bewilderment at the apparent naivety of Nigeria’s actions, stating that President Tinubu’s eagerness to boost the country’s economic position may have led to a self-inflicted weakness in negotiations with the oil companies. They argue that by abandoning the Italian claim and not demanding the withdrawal of Eni’s claim at ICSID, Nigeria has left itself vulnerable, signaling to oil companies that they can take advantage of the country’s weakened position.

The statement emphasized the limited space for negotiation, particularly concerning Nigeria’s “back in rights” to the OPL 245 field. Under the 2011 deal, Nigeria is currently denied any share of future profits from the field’s oil exploitation, requiring a substantial payment of $875 million to Eni and Shell, which the country reportedly cannot afford.

Concerns were raised about the potential long-term consequences, including delays in oil production, missed opportunities for climate finance initiatives, and exposure to climate damage lawsuits. The decision to leave the 2011 deal intact, despite labeling it as “fraudulent” and “corrupt,” jeopardizes asset recovery cases and may negatively impact Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts, deterring investors and increasing international borrowing costs.The statement concluded by suggesting that President Tinubu’s family connections to the oil industry may have influenced Nigeria’s surrender to Eni and Shell, raising questions about the commitment to challenging corruption within the country’s petrocracy and the potential adverse effects on Nigeria’s masses.

Source: thesourceng.com