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ECOWAS Court to hear from representatives of oil-producing communities

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The ECOWAS Court of Justice says that the hearing will continue on Tuesday, 27 October 2020, in a case brought by 11 persons representing oil-producing communities in nine of Nigeria’s states.

The communities are seeking compensation for the environmental degradation, pollution and health hazards caused by natural gas flared through oil exploration.

A panel of three judges of the court, led by its President, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, adjourned the matter until 27 October 2020, to enable Counsel to the Plaintiffs to properly file the application for amendment of their processes. The matter could not be entertained because of the unavoidable absence of a member of the panel of the court.

During the virtual hearing on 16 May 2019, the Court upheld the preliminary objection of the defendants and struck out the names of the seven oil companies and the Minister of Petroleum and the Attorney General of the Federation, who were joined in the case, on the ground that they were not proper parties before the court. This is due to only member states, who are state parties to treaties, being the only ones permitted to be brought before the court.

In suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/34/18, filed by their Counsel, I. O Ugwueze, the plaintiffs, Johnny King and 10 others, alleged the violation of their fundamental human rights and the continuous breach of their right to life through the flaring of associated gas into the air in their various communities, as a result of petroleum exploration and other activities.

The plaintiffs argued that this causes heavy and intolerable pollution of the communities’ environment, emission of poison and toxins into their air, land and drinking streams, rivers and seas, which they inhale, drink and eat, causing strange and mysterious illnesses that gradually kill them.

The plaintiffs, who are representing communities in Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross-River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States of Nigeria, claimed that the defendants were flaring natural gas as a result of exploration, drilling and production of crude petroleum oil in these states. This ultimately caused environmental degradation, pollution and health hazards to the communities.

They are, therefore, seeking for an order that the sum of37 500 000 000 dollars, only as general damages against the defendants jointly and severally, to be paid to the residents and members of the communities of the states.

The compensation also relates to the breach of the applicants’ fundamental rights to life and/or dignity of human person, and the wilful breaches of their fundamental rights.

The plaintiffs urged the court to issue a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, by themselves or by their agents, servants, contractors or workers or otherwise howsoever, from further flaring of gas in the applicants’ communities, among others.

The panel also has Justices Dupe Atoki and Keikura Bangura.



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