The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the ExxonMobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited to urgently comply with the recent Federal High Court judgement which ordered it to pay the sum of N81.9 billion as compensation for oil spills from the company’s facilities which occurred between 2000 and 2010.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had recently in a judgement given ExxonMobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) 14 days ultimatum to pay N81.9 billion to the fishing and farming communities in Ibeno Local Government Area.
The affected fishing and farming communities in Akwa Ibom State had dragged ExxonMobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and the NNPC to court, demanding adequate compensation for several oil spills that destroyed their rivers, streams and other sources of livelihoods.
But the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, described the judgement as a landmark judgement on the long walk to environmental justice and the protection of the environment and livelihoods.
Dr Ojo said: “The judgement is also significant because payment of compensation to the victims of oil pollution will impact positively on the lives of the people of the Niger Delta suffering under the heavy burden of oil spills pollution and destruction of their livelihoods.”
He said further that such court judgement represents “a conflict arbitration resolution mechanism that will help to rekindle hope in the court system that justice may be delayed by oil companies with war chest for huge legal fees but cannot be denied. There is no more hiding place for oil companies, and they should take full responsibility to comply immediately, and to clean up and pay up compensation immediately”.
By this victory, the impacted people will likely no longer resort to self-help, said ERA/FoEN, adding that the landmark judgement speaks to the question of access to justice that is being upheld and given relevance. The group hopes that, with the victory, many communities will approach the courts with thousands of oil spills and pollution cases pending some of which are yet to come before the courts or to get a date in court.
Dr Ojo stated that this and other recent “judgements delivered by courts in the Netherlands involving fisher men from Goi, in Rivers state, Oruma in Bayelsa State and Ikot Ada Udo in Akwa Ibom State against Shell and the decision recently handed down in the case instituted by the Ogale community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State against Shell in the courts of justice in London will galvanise local communities to redouble their effort to hold all polluters in the country accountable for their deleterious actions.”
In a press statement issued from ERA/FoEN headquarters in Benin City by the organisation’s Director of Programmes, Mike Karikpo, the group applauded the Ibeno Communities for remaining steadfast in the pursuit of justice despite all odds.
ERA/FoEN praised the Nigerian judiciary for the rational and courageous decisions that they have been handing down recently in cases involving local communities and the multinational oil and gas companies who have often used their deep pockets to capture and truncate the judicial process.
ERA/FoEN called on Mobil Producing Nigeria unlimited “to ensure the prompt payment of the compensation as directed by the court within 14 days and not to repeat the stance of Shell that has refused to pay the N17 billion compensation awarded by a Nigerian court to the Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme local government area of Rivers state for oil spills that devastated their land in 2010.”
“This spill occurred during the Nigerian civil war 1967-1970 and Shell has refused to undertake proper clean-up of the spill or pay adequate compensation. In November 2020 Shell lost an attempt to extricate itself from responsibility for the spill and the compensation cost awarded against it.
“The Nigerian Supreme Court rejected Shell’s bid to set aside the 2010 compensation award, with accruing interest the compensation claim now stands at N180 billion which is far less than the monumental environmental damage, biodiversity losses and destruction of livelihoods.
“This is even more relevant in this decade of Ecosystem Restoration declared by the United Nations. As oil fades as the energy source of choice across the world, it is imperative that all oil impacted ecosystems across the country should be cleaned and restored as much as possible to the state they were before the commencement of oil mining activities,” the statement added.