It is time for the slowly-grinding wheel of justice to crush the Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC) and its subsidiary, which had evaded justice for long.
This is the position of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) during a media session in Lagos on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.
Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, said it took six days for NAOC to agree to a joint inspection visit where it was concluded that “equipment failure” caused an oil spill at Ikebiri community in Bayelsa State. NAOC, he added, operates seven wells and eight pipelines with several flow lines in Ikebiri.
“You will be shocked to know that after that visit, the leak was closed; but the surrounding polluted area of bush was set ablaze in a state-of-the-art clean up technology often deployed by Agip and without the consent of the local community. No other clean-up has taken place since,” he said.
The Ikebiri community comprises several villages in Bayelsa State. Its main economic activities include palm-wine tapping, canoe carving, fishing, farming, animal trapping and traditional medical practices.
On April 5, 2010 an oil pipeline operated by ENI’s Nigerian operation, NAOC burst 250 metres from a creek north of Ikebiri. The spill affected the creek, fishing ponds and trees essential to the local community, damaging the livelihoods of the local community.
A joint inspection visit led by NAOC on April 11, 2010 cited “equipment failure” as the cause of the spill, for which NAOC/ENI are liable.
NAOC operates seven wells and eight pipe lines with several flow lines in the area. The leak was closed, and the surrounding polluted area of bush was burnt without the consent of the local community. This is common practice, but is an inadequate, dangerous and polluting method for cleaning up oil. No other clean-up has taken place since.
The Ikebiri Community has engaged in discussions with NAOC/ENI for emergency relief materials and compensation. An initial payment of N2 million was made to the community for relief materials. However, to date, the community has received no compensation for damages as a result of the spill. An initial offer of N4.5 million in December 2010 was rejected by the community as insufficient, and ENI has since discontinued discussions with the community regarding compensation.
Significance of the case
The company involved this case is the Italian oil major, ENI. This case is unprecedented in Italy.
Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Friends of the Earth Europe will be supporting Ikebiri in the case against ENI in Milan, Italy, seeking clean-up and compensation for the pollution that ENI has brought to their land in the Niger Delta. The King of Ikebiri is the plaintiff, and the lawyers representing them are Luca Saltalamacchia with Chima Williams supporting from Nigeria.
ERA/FoEN have open lines to the king and members of the community aware of the case.
According to Ojo, ERA is very optimistic that the case will yield good fruit.
“We hope that this case will be successful, being the first instance of an Italian company having to face justice in Italy for its actions in destroying the environment overseas,” he says.
According to him, another area that gives stakeholders hope is that the case “will help end the impunity and offer hope to other communities that have suffered damages as a result of pollution from oil wells or pipelines operated by Agip/ENI or any other multinational firm operating in the Niger Delta and elsewhere”.
The court case, described as a product of four years of painstaking research and documentation and the patience of the Ikebiri people suffering this ordeal this past seven years, according to the activists, will:
- Compel ENI and its Nigerian subsidiary to clean up the spill in the community and compensation of two million euros to the Ikebiri community.
- Stop oil companies from acting with impunity in the Niger Delta, neglecting the communities severely impacted by their operations and getting away with this due to their above the law status.
- Put in place adequate enforcement mechanisms through agencies like National Oil Spills Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA).