March 15, 2001
WORLD BANK REPLIES PETITION ON REGIONAL PIPELINE
The World Bank has admitted providing technical support for the West Africa Gas Pipeline project (WAGP) between 1995-1999. In a response to a petition signed by over 135 organisations from 26 countries on WAGP to the President of the Bank, Mr James Wolfensohn, the Bank however said it currently has no commitment to support the project beyond funding the technical assistance to the governments of Ghana, Togo and Benin, which expired two years ago. The Bank's Africa Region Sector Director (Finance, Private Sector and Infrastructure) Praful Patel in a March 1 letter written on behalf of the World Bank President did not however rule out future funding.
According to Patel, "discussions are continuing among the sponsors and the our governments on the conditions under which the project would be feasible. The World Bank Group is maintaining contacts with the principal parties. For the Bank to be in a position to consider further this project, it would have to be satisfied that it is technically, economically and financially viable and complies with the Bank's safeguard policies and fiduciary requirements."
The World Bank letter added that: "The responsibility for preparing environmental assessments, resettlement plans, indigenous people's plans and other documentation rests with the project developers. They are fully aware that any form of World Bank Group support would depend, among other things, on compliance with Bank policies, including an analysis of alternatives: and environmental and social management plans to diminish adverse effects identified by the environmental and social analyses. These plans would also need to adhere to the Bank's guidelines."
The Bank further said that it is "committed to public consultation and disclosure of environmental and social information and would, should it consider supporting the project, engage with borrowers in a full and open consultation process in all four countries."
On concerns over WAGP exacerbating human rights violations and communal conflicts, the Bank expressed commitment to open and responsive systems of governance. Patel suggested the need for "open public consultations during the preparation of the projects that we (the Bank) support so as to ensure that they do not undermine the welfare of the affected populations."
Reacting to the letter from the World Bank, the Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth-Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Nnimmo Bassey observed that there is a contradiction in the Bank's position that it has no commitment to support WAGP when the Bank is working with the countries involved to develop a fiscal framework for the project. He said that support for a project by the Bank is not limited to financing.
Bassey stressed that World Bank guidelines do not guarantee responsible development and protection of community livelihoods in projects supported by the Bank. He cited the case of the World Bank supported oil exploitation in Chad where "so-called guidelines and safeguard measures of the World Bank did not prevent the Chadian regime from expending initial revenue from the oil project on the purchase of arms".
According to the ERA/FoE-Nigeria Director, the reality is that once the World Bank gives out money for a project "there is little the Bank can do to halt the destruction, deprivation and conflicts that the project will unleash".
Similarly, Mr Isaac Osuoka, Coordinator of the Oilwatch Africa Network, ERA/FoE-Nigeria noted that in the case of WAGP, project development is going on with infrastructure being upgraded in Escravos, with attendant impacts. "It would not be possible for the Bank to come in at the late hour and expect compliance to its policies and guidelines", Osuoka observed. He called on the Bank to heed the call of the Friends of the Earth International network and numerous civil society organisations around the world for the World Bank and other international creditor institutions to stop supporting oil, mining and gas projects "which bring environmental degradation, mass impoverishment, conflicts and increase the debt burden on impoverished countries".
In a petition to the World Bank dated December 18, 2000, NGOs and social movements around the world expressed serious concerns that the West African Gas Pipeline project would aggravate environmental devastation, human rights violations, communal conflicts and impoverishment of the communities in the gas fields and pipeline route. They therefore called on the World Bank to discontinue any support for the WAGP until:
1) The Nigerian state, which is a part of the West African Gas Pipeline Consortium, addresses the issues of access to land, resource control, livelihoods and self-determination for communities and peoples of the Niger Delta area;
2) The Nigerian central government discontinues its programme of militarisation of the oil- bearing Niger Delta area and create a condition for democratic participation;
3) Chevron and the Nigerian government address the fears of the local communities. These fears as articulated by the people themselves include: the absence of an all-inclusive Environmental Impact Assessment, the grave environmental devastation that will result from the project including deforestation, explosions, the fragmentation of habitats and wildlife corridors and the blocking of water bodies, cultural dislocation as well as economic impoverishment.
The WAGP is conceived as a 12-30 inch, 500mile (800-kilometre) onshore and offshore pipeline to transport natural gas from the Niger Delta to special consumers in Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana.
A consortium comprising Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL),
Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Shell Petroleum Development
Corporation (SPDC), Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Societe
Benioise de Gaz S.A (SOBEGAZ) and Societe Togolaise de Gaz (SOTOGAZ), has
concluded plans to establish the West African Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo)
to 'construct, maintain and operate the pipeline.' Chevron is designated
Head of Campaigns
(For further information, please contact Doifie OLA on:
+234-1-4932606; E-mail: DISERA@infoweb.abs.net)