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Shell ordered to appear by Nigerian court
11 April 2006
Rumuekpe children looking at Shell gas flare
Flaring in the community had continued despite a November 2005 judgment in favour of local resident Mr Jonah Gbemre and the Iwherekan community, which found the flaring to be a violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed rights of life and dignity. Contempt of court proceedings against Shell Nigeria and NNPC were filed on 16th December 2005.
The court has also ordered the Nigerian Government Minister of State for Petroleum to appear in court on 31 May, alongside the managing director of Shell Nigeria and the managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Alison Dilworth, Rights and Justice Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, said:,
"Flaring is a human rights violation which damages the health and livelihoods of communities across the Delta, as well as significantly contributing towards climate change. Today's verdict puts Shell under a legal obligation to end flaring and is a victory in the campaign to end flaring."
Reverend Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, said:
"We consider this ruling as another milestone in the tortuous road to victory. What happened today was the throwing of a long rope to Shell hoping that they would for once toe the line of obedience to court orders. We fully expected Shell's baseless application to be rejected since the High Court had earlier ruled their gas flaring acts as illegal and criminal. As it stands, we urge Shell to respect this ruling by ensuring that their big guns appear in person before the judge and that they show the world their detailed plan of action to stop the flares by April 2007."
Peter Roderick, co-Director of the Climate Justice Programme, which has been supporting Mr Gbemre and the community in bringing the case, said:
"I am delighted that the judge has shown courage and tenacity in requiring Shell Nigeria and NNPC to stop flaring in Iwherekan. His order indicates a nuanced approach, backed by a clear message that the rights of local people to live in dignity and in a healthy environment will be enforced by the courts. The old flares-out game of broken promises is coming to an end."
Nigeria has been the world's biggest gas flarer, and the practice has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined, as well as poisoning localities with their toxic cocktail. The practice costs Nigeria about US$2.5 billion annually, while about 66% of its population live on less than US$1 a day. Shell Nigeria has said that it does not plan to stop flaring before the end of 2009. Other deadlines to end flaring have repeatedly slipped.
In November 2005, following a case brought by case by Mr Jonah Gbemre, on behalf of himself and the Iwerekan community in Delta State, the Federal High Court of Nigeria ordered the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (Shell) to end flaring in Iwherekan community the practice violates guaranteed constitutional rights to life and dignity. All the major multinational oil companies in Nigeria flare gas, including ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, TotalFinaElf and Agip, as well as Shell, in joint ventures with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, and the breadth of the ruling makes clear that their flaring is also illegal.
Mr Gbemre's case was supported by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria and the Climate Justice Programme as well as Friends of the Earth.
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria is dedicated to the defence of human ecosystems in terms of human rights, and to the promotion of environmentally responsible governmental, commercial, community and individual practice in Nigeria through the empowerment of local people: www.eraction.org
The Climate Justice Programme is an initiative hosted by Friends of the Earth International. It aims to encourage and support the enforcement of the law internationally to combat climate change. Over 70 organisations and lawyers are signatories to its Statement of Support, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF and organizations based in developing countries: www.climatelaw.org
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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust
Last modified: Jun 2008