Lagos — Even as the new minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke has started discharging her official duties, more reactions have continued to trail her recent redeployment from Mines and Steel to the strategic oil ministry.
Latest criticism coming from the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has cautioned that the appointment of the woman politician as minister for Petroleum is a tactless surrender of Nigeria's oil industry to Shell Petroleum Development Company and must be reversed immediately to forestall corporate takeover of policy directions with special reference to the vexing oil sector matters.
In a statement issued in Warri, Delta State, ERA/FoEN said that the appointment of Alison-Madueke, a former Director of Shell, is not only a 'slap' on the face of Nigerians combating oil companies impunity in the Niger Delta, but also rubbishes government's sincerity to bringing about transparency and accountability in the oil sector as espoused in sections of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
"This development is extremely outrageous. It is the biggest threat to the PIB and is equivalent to playing yoyo with the Nigerian petroleum industry and the Nigerian environment. How can a government that claims it is interested in genuine peace and development in the Niger Delta region hand the destinies of the same people to Shell?," ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey queried.
Bassey held that the appointment of a Shell official as head of the petroleum ministry is the culmination of a well-written script concocted in the board rooms of the oil corporations and started with Shell selling a dummy of a planned pullout from the country to force government to back down on legislations that will guarantee improved revenue, transparency, accountability and environmental protection.
"There is an irreconcilable conflict of interest here because the new minister has never for once hidden her true identity as a protégé of Shell. Nigerians have not forgotten how she adorned a Shell overall with a large inscription of that company's bold logo during her widely publicized tour of Benin-Ore highway soon after she was named as Works and Transport Minister".
Bassey restated ERA/FoEN position on the need for a speedy passage of the PIB with civil society inputs on environmental protection and community participation, insisting that this will ensure the oil majors stop perpetrating the existing unfair relationships that make them unaccountable and impervious to public denouncements.
"We unequivocally reject this appointment and maintain that we cannot afford the handover of our economy to the oil corporations that have a sworn objective of shooting down the PIB, and continually abridging the environmental and human rights of local peoples.
If Shell stays on the petroleum sectors driver's seat, we are going to witness more of double-speak, cloudy reserves projections, uncontrolled extraction, more of pollution and more of politics of divide-and-rule in oil communities. Nigerians reject this appointment. It is early and the day and Acting President Jonathan can reassign this minister," Bassey insisted.