FOI: Amnesty International, SERAP task FG over implementation of ECOWAS oil pollution judgment
Amnesty International, London and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have sent a Freedom of Information request to the Federal Government “seeking information on the measures the government is taking to fully implement the judgment by the ECOWAS Court of Justice on the right of the people and communities of the Niger Delta to a general satisfactory environment and to an adequate standard of living.”
The joint letter dated 25 January 2013 was signed on behalf of the two organizations by Adetokunbo Mumuni, and sent to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Muhammed Adoke, SAN.
The ECOWAS Court had in December 2012 unanimously ordered the government to: ensure reparation for the collective harm done to the communities; restore within the shortest possible time the environment of the Niger Delta; prevent the occurrence of damage to the environment; and hold oil companies and other perpetrators of the environmental damage accountable.
Consequently, Amnesty International and SERAP are seeking information “within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the letter on: “the names of all oil companies’ representatives based in state and federal government ministries and duration of their stay in the ministries; the details of their salaries and their remit; who authorised their work in Ministries and the reasons thereof; the details of gifts paid by oil companies to Ministries or their employees or donations made; and the steps the government is taking to end the practice of oil companies placing their employees or other agents (paid or unpaid) within government ministries.”
“We want to know exactly the level and nature of fines imposed on oil companies for breach of regulations over the past 10 years; and the measures taken by the government to punish the companies. We want to know whether the government has ever investigated the role that oil companies and others have played and continued to play in the environmental pollution in the region, and the outcome of any such investigation,” the organizations also stated.
The organizations also “want to know the steps the government is taking to publicly acknowledge the oil judgment and to express the government’s commitment to comply fully with the judgment; and the concrete measures the government is taking to prevent further oil pollution and to restore (meaning remediate) the environment damaged by oil and gas activities in Niger Delta.”
The organizations also “want to know the time-frame for the effective implementation of any such measures if they exist; and the areas of the Niger Delta the measures cover, and whether any such measures include the making of new laws or adopting of new policies and if yes the role the National Assembly will play in this respect.”
The organizations also “want information on the amount of money that is being set aside annually, and for what period of time for the effective implementation of any such measures, as well as the government’s plan to involve local and international monitors to ensure the transparent implementation of any such measures and spending on the Niger Delta.”
The organizations also “seek information on the forms of reparation the government plan to provide to the affected communities covered by the ECOWAS court judgment; the number of vehicles (broken down by cars, boats, and in each office) that the Ministry of Environment and NOSDRA have to pursue their mandate to prevent damage to the environment and react swiftly to oil spills; and the total number of staff in the Ministry of Environment and NOSDRA that work on oil pollution prevention and oil spill detection in the Niger Delta.”
The organizations “want to know the number / frequency of meetings between the oil companies and the President, Ministry of Environment and/or Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the last five years; the age of oil infrastructure across the Niger Delta, and specifically whether any parts of the pipeline are older than 20 years; and the steps the government is taking to improve its spill data collection and subsequent public disclosure; and deal with the claim by Shell and others regarding business confidentiality.”
The organizations also “want information on what the government is doing to fully and effectively implement all past spill reports, and all private sector and government reports and proposals to address same; and what the government is doing to ensure that the oil and gas companies take immediate steps to stop flaring off natural gas, and to clean up oil spills.”
It will be recalled that this case originated from a complaint brought on 23 July 2009 on behalf of the Registered Trustees of SERAP by Femi Falana, SAN, against the President of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian National Petroleum Company, Shell Petroleum Development Company, ELF Petroleum Nigeria ltd, AGIP Nigeria PLC, Chevron Oil Nigeria PLC, Total Nigeria PLC and Exxon Mobil.
The Plaintiff alleged violation by the Defendants of the rights to health, adequate standard of living and rights to economic and social development of the people of Niger Delta and the failure of the Defendants to enforce laws and regulations to protect the environment and prevent pollution
The court found that “oil spills pollute water, destroy aquatic life and soil fertility with resultant adverse effect on the health and means of livelihood of people in its vicinity.” The court also ruled that the government “has failed in recent years to take any single action to punish perpetrators of oil pollution.”
According to the court, the attitude of the Nigerian government has violated both an obligation of attitude and an obligation of result under the African Charter, including in respect of Article 24, which provides: ˝All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development˝. The court also said that, “Nigeria must ensure that vigilance and diligence are being applied and observed towards attaining concrete results in the implementation of Article 24 and Article 1 of the African Charter.”
The court further stated that the numerous laws passed to regulate the extractive oil and gas industry and safeguard their effects on the environment, the creation of agencies to ensure the implementation of the legislation, and the allocation to the region, 13% of the revenue that comes from natural resource extraction in the region to be used for its development, have totally failed to prevent the continued environmental degradation of the region, “as evidenced by the facts abundantly proven in this case and admitted by the very same Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Article 15(4) of the ECOWAS Treaty makes the Judgment of the Court binding on Member States, including Nigeria. Also, Article 19(2) of the 1991 Protocol provides that the decisions of the Court shall be final and immediately enforceable.
Read the letter to the AGF