The ECOWAS Court of Justice has fixed Oct. 27, 2020 to hear a $37 billion suit in damages filed by 11 persons representing the oil producing communities.
In a statement on Tuesday, October 6, the court said that the plaintiffs sought compensation for the alleged environmental degradation, pollution and health hazards caused by natural gas flared through oil exploration.
A panel of three judges of the Court led by its President, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, fixed the date, to enable Counsel to the Plaintiffs to properly file the application for amendment of processes.
During the virtual hearing on May 16, , the Court upheld the preliminary objection of the defendants.
The court also struck out the names of the seven oil companies and the Minister of Petroleum and the Attorney General of the Federation who were joined in the case.
Those whose names were struck out were not proper parties before the Court, as only Member States who are State parties to Treaties can be brought before the Court.
In the suit with no ECW/CCJ/APP/34/18 filed by their Counsel, I. O. Ugwueze, the plaintiffs Johnny King and 10 others, alleged the violation of their fundamental human rights and the continuous breach of their right to life through the flaring of associated gas into the air in their various communities.
The plaintiffs argued that this causes heavy and intolerable pollution of the communities’ environment, emission of poison and toxins into their air.
Land and drinking streams, rivers and seas which they inhale, drink and eat causing strange and mysterious illnesses that gradually kills them.
The plaintiffs, who are representing communities in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states of Nigeria, claimed that the Defendants were flaring natural gas as a result of exploration, drilling and production of crude petroleum oil in these states.
They claimed that the flaring activities was causing environmental degradation ,pollution and health hazards to the communities.
They are therefore seeking for an order that the sum of $37.5 billion as general damages against the Defendants jointly and severally to be paid to the residents and members of the communities of the states.
The compensation also relate to the breach of the Applicants’ fundamental Rights to life and/or dignity of human person and the wilful breaches of their fundamental rights.
The plaintiffs urged the court to issue a perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents by themselves or by their agents, servants, contractors or workers or otherwise howsoever form, from further flaring of gas in the Applicants’ communities, among others.
Also on the panel are Justices Dupe Atoki and Keikura Bangura.
By Ifeanyi Nwoko