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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Head of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, six others win Goldman Environmental Prize

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) Executive Director, Barrister Chima Williams, has been named among the seven winners of this year’s prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

Chima Williams
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) Executive Director, Barrister Chima Williams

A statement released by the Goldman Environmental Foundation listed other winners to include Niwat Roykaew from Thailand; Marjan Minnessma, the Netherlands; Juliet Vincent, Australia; Nalleli Cobo, United States; and Alex Luciatante and Alexandra Narvaez, Ecuador.

The Goldman Prize is awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions.

“The Goldman Environmental Prize honours the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from around the world, inspiring all of us to take action to protect our planet,” the statement said.

The Prize was founded in 1989 in San Francisco by philanthropists and civic leaders Rhoda and Richard Goldman. In 33 years, the Prize has had an immeasurable impact on the planet. To date, 213 winners have been honoured including 95 women from 93 nations.

“While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us of what can be accomplished in the face of adversity,” said Jennifer Goldman Wallis, Vice President of the Goldman Environmental Foundation.

She added: “The Prize winners show us that nature has the amazing capability to regenerate if given the opportunity. Let us all feel inspired to channel their victories into regenerating our own spirit and act to protect our planet for future generations.”

Chima Williams, who became ERA/FoEN Executive Director in October 2020, won the award based on his work with two Niger Delta communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for environmental damage caused by a spill from its facilities into the communities between 2004 and 2007.

On January 29, 2021, after 13 years of legal proceedings, the Court of Appeal sitting in The Hague, Netherlands, the home country of Shell, ruled in favour of three Nigerian farmers from two communities in two States of the Niger Delta – Eric Barizaa Dooh of Goi Community of Rivers State, Fidelis Oguru and Alali Efanga, both from Oruma Community of Bayelsa State.

The Court ruled that not only was Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary responsible for the oil spills, but, as parent company, Royal Dutch Shell also had an obligation to prevent the spills.

The ruling was the first time a Dutch transnational corporation has been held accountable for the violations of its subsidiary in another country, opening Shell to legal action from communities across Nigeria devastated by the company’s disregard for environmental safety.

Previous Nigerian winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize include the late playwright and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Cross River based environmentalist, Odiga Odigha.

The Prize award is normally conducted in-person at a ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House, United States; but, this year, in the light of the COVID 19 pandemic, the Prize was awarded virtually and broadcast online on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

In a reaction, Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), expressed excitement over the award given to Chima Williams, saying: “This award could not have come at a better time for the struggle for environmental justice. The world is at the crossroads with multi crises including climate change, biodiversity loss and others.

“This award calls attention to the fact that changes can be propelled by grassroots actions. Williams has clearly illustrated this in his many years of dogged and selfless struggles.”

Bassey also stated that more advocates should rise up to the task of raising new generations of environmental activists to secure a safe future for Nigerians and Africans at large considering the growing destructive activities going on in our countries.

According to HOMEF, the Goldman Environmental prize given to Chima Williams shines a light on the harms that have been inflicted on the nation’s environment and the right of the people to stand for justice, adding that the prize has been awarded to deserving individuals and groups since it began in 1989.

In a related development, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has described the award as well-deserved.

CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “The award of the Goldman Environmental Prize to Chima Williams serves as encouragement to individuals, groups, and communities even beyond the Niger Delta that are fighting environmental injustices. The environmental justice community hails this announcement.
“The recognition of Williams is a testament of his doggedness in the quest to hold corporations like Shell accountable for environmental recklessness that they think they can get away with.”

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