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A. Sampson: Delta Group Backs Call To End Oil Aid

Niger Delta Group Backs Call To End Oil Aid

By Akanimo Sampson
Port Harcourt

JOURNALISTS for Niger Delta, JODEL, a media group concerned with the affairs of Nigeria's oil and gas region, says they are part of the current global campaign to end oil aid.

The group rose from a meeting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Wednesday, declaring that they are part of the ongoing global lobby pushing for an end to oil aid.

At the end of the meeting, JODEL Co-ordinator in nAkwa Ibom State, Keresifon Essien, said, ''we are one of the hundreds of representatives of development, environment, faith-based, human rights, community, and indigenous rights groups, calling on wealthy countries and international institutions to stop using foreign assistance and other public resources to subsidize the activities of international oil companies''.

According to the Niger Delta media group, ''these subsidies fuel overconsumption in wealthy countries, benefit an already highly profitable and well-established industry, and exacerbate many of the most urgent problems facing humanity today. It is time to end oil aid.

Money that is supposed to be going to help people in impoverished countries is instead being used to subsidize the oil industry''.

This oil aid is increasing conflict and poverty in many parts of the world and fueling oil dependence and global warming. The World Bank’s own Extractive Industries Review called in late-2003 for an end to oil aid when it recommended that “The World Bank Group should phase out investments in oil production by 2008 and devote its scarce resources to investments in renewable energy resource development…”. Tragically, the World Bank chose to ignore this recommendation and multilateral development banks continue to use public money to subsidize oil companies.

The World Bank Group alone has provided more than $5 billion to oil extraction projects since 1992, while devoting only small fraction of its energy budget to clean, renewable energy sources. Moreover, in the oil sector, over 80 percent of the World Bank’s approved finance goes to projects that export to the North. These projects are not about alleviating energy poverty – they’re about corporate welfare for oil companies and feeding oil addiction in wealthy countries.

Export credit agencies are also providing subsidies worth billions of dollars a year to oil and gas extraction projects and pipelines. Exxon Mobil alone has received more than a billion dollars in support from export credit agencies since 1995 and companies such as Shell, Halliburton, BP and Chevron, Total and Repsol have received hundreds of millions from these publicly owned institutions.

Oil companies are benefiting from this “oil aid” at the same time that they register record profits. As independent research has increasingly indicated, international oil companies are hindering, not promoting, development in poor countries, fueling conflict and sinking oil-producing countries deeper into poverty and economic inequality. Continued oil dependence has a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest countries at a time of high oil prices, thereby undermining the benefits of debt cancellation and harming the very countries that international institutions like the World Bank should be helping.

''Due to these and many other problems, it has long been clear that subsidizing oil companies is not an effective or justifiable way to spend limited development assistance and other public money, but global warming has brought the crisis associated with our addiction to oil into focus like never before. Greenhouse gas emissions from wealthy countries over the past century are largely responsible for the growing problem of climate change, but it is the world’s most impoverished countries that will bear a disproportionate burden in the coming decades'', the group said.

Continuing, they added, ''by using aid and other public money to subsidize the expansion of oil production, wealthy countries and international institutions are actively exacerbating the problem of global climate change without addressing the core issue of overcoming energy poverty''.

Insisting, JODEL said, ''ending oil aid and supporting truly sustainable energy alternatives would be an important step in addressing energy poverty and catalyzing a new energy future. With this in mind, we are calling for an end to international assistance to oil companies''.

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Akanimo Sampson, is the Co-ordinator of Journalists for Niger Delta (JODEL), a media group concerned with the affairs of Nigerria's oil and gas region.

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