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ERA/FoEN Urges Shell To Respect Court Order On Gas Flaring
Thursday, 03 May 2007

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on Shell Petroleum and Development Company (SPDC) to respect a high court judgment which ordered it to stop gas flaring in Iwherekan community in Delta State by April 30, 2007.

In a statement issued yesterday, the environmental group lamented that despite the expiration of the April 30 deadline by the court, Shell had continued to flare gas in the community and elsewhere in Nigeria with impunity while also employing delaying tactics and strategies to foil legal processes.

A Federal High court sitting in Benin and presided by Justice V. C Nwokorie, had on November 14th 2005 ordered Shell to stop gas flaring in Iwherekan Community, Delta State by April 2007, saying it violates the fundamental right to life and dignity.

The suit was filed on July 20, 2005 by Mr. Jonah Gbemre on behalf of himself and Iwerekan community against Shell, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Attorney General of the Federation, asking for the stoppage of gas flaring in the community.

In April 2006, contempt of court proceedings were filed against Shell Managing Director, Basil Omiyi and NNPC Group Managing Director Funso Kupolokun, and NNPC Company Secretary, Mrs Sena Anthony in December, 2006, after Shell and NNPC   failed to comply with the court order.

After the filing of contempt of court proceedings against Shell, the company was granted a "conditional stay of execution", releasing it from the duty to comply with a court order in November 2005 to stop flaring. The court gave the following conditions of which none have been met.

 The conditions are:

  •  that Shell was allowed a period of one year to achieve a quarterly phase-by-phase stoppage of its gas flaring in Nigeria under the supervision of the High Court..
  • a detailed phase-by-phase technical scheme of arrangement, scheduled in such a way as to achieve a total non-flaring scenario in all their on-shore flow stations by 30th April 2007" must be submitted to the court personally by Omiyi, Kupolukun,  NNPC Managing Director, Mr. Edmund Daukoru and Mrs Anthony, the Company Secretary of NNPC.

But on April 30, 2007 when Shell was   to appear in court, the plaintiff's legal representative who was present in court discovered that not only has no such detailed scheme been submitted, but that Justice Nwokorie had been removed from the case having been transferred to another court in Katsina , the court file was not available, and no representative of the company or government turned up.

"While Shell and its shareholders count their profits all we can count are the early graves that their toxic gas flares keep sending our people. It is morally wrong for Shell to continue with gas flaring despite a ruling that has ordered them to cease it. Shell continues not only to waste Nigeria's natural resources in this way, but is criminally wasting the lives of poor people in our communities who cannot avoid the impacts of gas flaring," Says ERA Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.

Lawyer Peter Roderick, co-Director of the Climate Justice Programme, which has also supported the case, expressed his concerns with the legal process and Shell's behaviour:

"Many disturbing aspects have emerged during the progress of the Iwherekan case. First, Shell's lawyers pull out as many delaying tactics as possible in the court, even trying to get the judge kicked off the case before it has barely started. Shell then fails to comply with the court order to stop flaring. And now, after the judge has extended the period of time for Shell to stop flaring, they ignore the order again and don't even turn up in court.

Gas flaring is a destructive practice which costs the African country about US$2.5 billion annually; while more than 66% of its population is estimated to live on less than US $1 a day.

Nigeria has been the world's biggest gas flarer, and the practice has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined, according to a World Bank 2002 statement.

Flaring is bad for both the environment and the people in the Niger Delta. It can lead to leukemia or asthma and premature death. It causes acid rain which acidifies lakes and streams and damages vegetation.  


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