Climate justice groups from Nigeria, Togo, and South Africa have criticized the misinterpretation of divestments in Africa which they say, does not follow laid down procedures of divestment practiced in the international community.
The activists drew this conclusion at a webinar on International Oil Companies (IOC) divestment in Africa organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) as part of activities lined out for the Africa Peoples Counter COP (APCC2023).
In his welcome, ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Chima Williams said that the web meeting was targeted building synergy among groups in Africa challenging the divestment processes like ERA/FoEN is doing in Nigeria where it has engaged communities, CSO and media to halt thedivestment processes.
Ubrei Joe Mariere, ERA/FoEN Programme Manager and Project Coordinator, Climate Justice and Energy of Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA) explained that there are about 20 processes that companies must fulfil for a divestment process to be deemed complete. They include transition planning, due diligence, and legal consultation among others. Mariere however noted that these processes are not followed by companies like Shell, TotalEnergies and of recent Eni in their divestment plans in the Niger Delta.
He revealed that the Leave Oil in the Soil Campaign championed by ERA/FoEN and the global climate justice federation is a strategy to pressure governments to pull resources away from dirty energy and invest them instead in clean energy projects.
In his intervention, Chima Williams said the Nigeria campaign on Deepening Conversations for Review of International IOCs Divestment Processes and the Nigeria Energy Transition Plan under the Energy Transition Fund (ETF) seeks to escalate growing agitations for policy level intervention to address the anomalies in the Niger Delta, particularly IOCs failure to take responsibility for the cost of oil in affected communities.
He further explained that the campaign on divestment which started in 2021 has strengthened civil society and there is now a growing advocacy for policy level laws to halt new oil exploration activities and new oil fields.
According to him, a major legal precedent achieved stopping Shell and Exxon Mobil from divesting onshore holdings pending a suit instituted by impacted communities in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta.
Yegeshi Moodley, Senior Manager of Climate Energy and Justice Campaign, Groundwork South Africa, said that South Africa has its own share of misrepresentation of divestment even though Section 24 of the South African constitution affirms the right to the environment. According to her companies like TotalEnergies, Renergen and Rhino Oil and Gas are on the forefront of fossil fuel projects that local communities are now resisting.
Moodley stressed the fact that most of the mineral resources belt in South Africa include the offshore have been partitioned and carved up by IOCs encouraged and protected by the South African governments. She added however that farmers and community people are strategically challenging.
Similarly, Kwami Kpondzo, executive director of Center for Environmental Justice in Togo pointed out that the divestment engagements in Togo has a particular uniqueness because that country’s government believes that the energy mix must include fossil fuels. He went on to add that fishermen and communities around where extraction happen are now on the forefront in demands that the government remain committed only to transiting to clean and affordable renewables.
The webinar was attended by climate activists, grassroots communities and media representatives across Africa.