Oil giant quits onshore sector in Africa’s largest economy

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Shell, the British oil giant, has announced that it has signed an agreement to sell its Nigerian onshore assets for $2.4 billion. The corporation has been involved in long-running legal fights in West Africa over environmental degradation.

According to the corporation, the sale to the Renaissance group, a partnership of five companies, is meant to streamline Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited’s (SPDC) activities.

“This agreement marks an important milestone for Shell in Nigeria… simplifying our portfolio and focusing future disciplined investment in Nigeria on our Deepwater and Integrated Gas positions,” said Zoe Yujnovich, Shell’s integrated gas and upstream director, in a statement released on Tuesday.

It is a significant moment for SPDC, whose people have built it into a high-quality business over many years. Now, after decades as a pioneer in Nigeria’s energy sector, SPDC will move to its next chapter under the ownership of an experienced, ambitious Nigerian-led consortium,” she added.

Shell has sought to exit oil production in the Niger Delta since 2021, as part of a larger withdrawal by Western energy companies from Nigeria as they reportedly focus on more profitable business operations. In recent years, Italian energy major Eni, America’s Exxon Mobil, and Norway’s Equinor have all reached agreements to sell assets in the country.

The British firm has been working in Africa’s greatest economy for more than 80 years, enduring numerous scandals and environmental disasters since pioneering the country’s oil and gas industry in 1937.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has requested the Nigerian government, which must approve the transaction, to ensure that Shell addresses environmental concerns raised by decades of oil spills in the Niger Delta.

For decades, oil spills have harmed the health and livelihoods of many Niger Delta residents. Shell should not be allowed to just wash its hands of the issues and go on,” said Mark Dummett, Amnesty International’s director of human rights, in a statement on X (previously Twitter).

Thousands of residents have filed complaints, requesting compensation from the London-based energy company for hurting their livelihoods owing to pollution from the leaks. Late this year, the UK High Court determined that more than 13,000 farmers and fishers in the oil-producing communities of Ogale and Bille can sue the corporation for violating their constitutional right to a clean environment.