AS FTSE4GOOD NAMES ENI FOR 14 CONSECUTIVE YEARS; GROUP LAMENTS ENI’S INSENSITIVITY TO HOST COMMUNITIES IN NIGERIA

By Piriye Kiyaramo

Eni has been included in the FTSE4Good Index Series for the fourteenth consecutive year, gaining an overall position in the top 5% of the oil & gas companies evaluated, following the Agency’s latest half-year interim review.

Additionally, Eni has joined the Leadership band of Vigeo Eiris’ ESG Assessment, which raised Eni’s evaluation to “Advanced” from “Robust” in its latest review.

FTSE Russell has been at the forefront of innovation in ESG indexing for nearly two decades, since the creation of the FTSE4Good Index Series in 2001, one of the world’s first global ESG index families.

The FTSE4Good Index Series is a market-leading tool for investors seeking to invest in companies that demonstrate good sustainability practices.

Investors are increasingly incorporating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations into core benchmarks and passive investments.

Reacting to the cheering news, Eni’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and General Manager, Claudio Descalzi, said, “these evaluations are a recognition of the positive value that we are creating by putting sustainability at the centre of each one of our activities, seeking to be a force for good not only for our company, but also for the many people, organizations and communities with which we interact every day”.

Created by global index provider FTSE Russell, the FTSE4Good Index measures the Environmental, Social and Governance performance of companies (ESG). The FTSE4Good indices are used by a wide range of financial operators to develop and evaluate financial products focused on sustainable investments.

Vigeo Eiris, a rating and research agency, which was acquired by Moody’s in 2019, evaluates the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance factors into a company’s strategy, operations and management, seeking to promote economic performance, responsible investment and sustainable value creation.

In this role, Claudio Descalzi, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, will be responsible for the management of the company, with the exception of specific responsibilities that are reserved for the Board of Directors and those that are not to be delegated according to the current legislation.

Meanwhile, host communities to Eni’s subsidiary, Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Bayelsa state have sent a strong worded petition against the company over what they described as insensitivity and irresponsibility to the plight of host communities in Ikebiri Kingdom in Southern Ijaw local government area in terms of corporate social responsibility to the host communities where the company has operated for several decades without any thing to show for.

In a three page letter to the governor of Bayelsa state, dated August 19, 2020 and signed by the Chairman, Board of Trustees of an elite stakeholders’ group, Ikebiri Development Foundation (IDF), Apostle Timiebi Kiyaramo and Chairman, IDF Sub-Committee on Oil and Gas, Pastor Cornelius Timighen, on behalf of the affected four communities, appealed to the state government quickly intervene in the brewing crisis between Nigerian Agip Oil Company and the host communities to avert escalation.

The letter reads in part: Your Excellency, “Allow us to draw your attention to the display of insensitivity and irresponsibility by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NOAC) Limited towards the plight of her host communities and her citizens, with particular reference to the recent oil spill in Ikebiri kingdom which has reportedly devastated over seventy hectares of farmland and polluted the aquatic ecosystem of the area.

“We recall that the spill occurred since June 5, 2020 from the 10-inches Tebidaba/Clough Creek Pipeline belonging to Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) Limited. In accordance with the regulatory agency’s guidelines, a joint inspection team was constituted, comprising representatives from the federal and Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, NAOC, IDF and Ikebiri communities to ascertain the cause of spill which was certified to be equipment failure.

“The company has not bothered to respond to the plight of the people, particularly the health condition of women, children, elderly and other vulnerable groups in the affected communities, whose source of livelihood has been completely ruined by the oil spill. As we write this, NAOC has not thought it necessary to send palliatives or relief materials. This amounts to a complete failure on the part of NAOC’s corporate social responsibility policy, and a blatant trespass against the economic and environment rights of our communities.

“Your Excellency, with pain in our hearts, we recall a previous ugly incident in the kingdom, involving seven of our able-bodied youths, namely: Ziniama Kontei Ayakoroama, Wisdom Matthew, Layefa Igoli, Weniebi Idoloakpa Ayawei, Nimi Belebotei, Oweilayefa Ebimo and Williams Osain. They were shot dead on April 19, 1999, by armed escorts accompanying a NAOC maintenance crew, while on their way to attend a meeting with the then state commissioner of police in Yenagoa.

“Knowing how disputes over natural resources easily degenerate into full scale crisis between oil companies and host communities when poorly handled, members of Ikebiri Development Foundation deem it appropriate to draw your attention to the recent developments that may culminate in a full crisis between Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Ikebiri Kingdom, if government is not quick enough to intervene.

“Our simple prayer is that Nigerian Agip Oil Company should review her corporate relationship with communities in Ikebiri Kingdom, including Ikebiri I, II, III and IV in a bid to enhance cordial relations, maintain peaceful co-existence and ensure smooth business operations in the kingdom.

“We seek your government’s quick intervention to prevail on the company to undertake an immediate re-evaluation of her corporate social responsibility towards the host communities with a view to improving service delivery to forestall any likely adverse consequences. Unfolding events in the kingdom with respect to this major oil spill call for concerted efforts from the relevant agencies to engender improved industrial relations between Nigerian Agip Oil Company and her host communities in Ikebiri territory.

“We have every reason to detest the double standards in the community relations policy promoted by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company towards her host communities. For over four decades now, the company has been exploiting the natural wealth of Ikebiri Kingdom, and the result has been repeated conflict and violence that has continued to threaten security in the area and, by extension, the national economy. The developmental challenges facing our kingdom are still shaped by a turbulent history traceable to long standing grievances that could be provoked afresh by the negligence of the multinational oil company.

“Your Excellency will bear witness that peaceful oil and gas exploration operations of multinational companies across the globe depend on effective corporate social responsibility towards host communities. Even so, Nigerian Agip Oil Company which commenced oil and gas exploration in Ikebiri Kingdom since 1972 has continued to undermine the rights and privileges of the host communities, resulting in loss of lives and property over the years. Needless to say, the recent oil spill in Ikebiri Kingdom has affected both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the area, due to the harmful effect of petroleum hydrocarbons to the entire ecosystem.

‘If the poor state of affairs is left unattended by government, the activities of the company are likely to suffer intermittent disruptions which could lead to drop in productivity and loss of revenue, if not total withdrawal of the company from the area, on grounds of insecurity.

“What’s more, the lopsided employment policies of Nigerian Agip Oil Company have often attracted negative reactions from indigenes of the host communities, and occasioned repeated threats to peace and security in the area. It is of paramount importance that every anomaly relating to employment be holistically addressed to avert crisis.

‘We appeal to Your Excellency to use your good offices to prevail on the Nigerian Agip Oil Company to assess in good time the impact of the oil spill on economic activities of the affected communities and respond accordingly by sending commensurate relief materials alongside a medical team to the communities, while we await the outcome of an official round-table negotiation under the supervision of the state government and relevant experts to resolve the brewing dispute between the impacted host communities and Nigerian Agip Oil Company”.

Claudio Descalzi, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, said “One of Eni’s main goals is to support the communities where we live, work and operate. To maximise this commitment, we have developed a “dual-flag” approach which means Eni works closely with the government, local institutions and stakeholders of host countries”.

“Ghana is one of the 67 countries where we have operations and the Okuafo Pa (good farmer) Project is a perfect example of this model. Thanks to this initiative, 800 students are following educational programs that are focused on the rural development of agricultural activities. The Okuafo Pa Project also trains local farmers on crops that will offer maximum yields in specific areas. These young farmers represent the future of Ghana and are a great example of why Eni’s dual flag approach is so important”, Eni’s new Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, remarked.