This Day Online (Nigeria): Shell Faces Contempt Charge on Gas Flaring: “So soon after its fraud over Nigerian reserves, it’s astonishing that Shell has not complied with this court order preventing it from continuing gross violations of human rights. Its behaviour seriously undermines respect for the rule of law that its operations depend on,”: Posted Monday 19 December 2005
By Godwin Haruna
Contempt of court proceedings has been initiated against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), over their faillure to comply with a Federal High Court ruling which ordered stoppage with immediate effect, the flaring of gas in Iweherakan community in Delta State.
A Benin Federal High Court, presided over by Justice V.C. Nwokorie, had on November 14, 2005, ruled in a case brought against Shell, NNPC and the Attorney General of the Federation, that gas flaring violates the fundamental rights to life and dignity, guaranteed under the Constitution.
The original case was filed on July 20, 2005, by Mr Jonah Gbemre, on behalf of himself and Iwerakhan community in Delta State, with support from Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and Climate Justice Programme (CJP) based in the United Kingdom.
A statement issued by Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, programme officer, ERA/FoEN said rather than obey the court order, Shell has filed a notice of appeal against the ruling. "But without a ‘stay of execution,’ Shell remains bound by the order to immediately end flaring in Iwherekhan community. No stay of execution has been granted," he said.
According to the statement, people from the Iwherekan community have confirmed that flaring, a by-product of oil extraction has continued unchecked since November 14, 2005, therefore, Shell has therefore been in contempt of court since that date.
The contempt of court proceedings was filed on Friday, December 16, 2005 by Mr. Gbemre on behalf of himself and the Iwherekan community, with the support of Environmental Rights Action /Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) the Climate Justice Programme (CJP) based in the United Kingdom and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI).
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey said: “Since judgement was passed, Shell has not halted her illegal activities. What we are witnessing is a clear demonstration of the fact that Shell has scant respect for the lives of the people in whose communities they carry on their business. While the people are dying, Shell cares only for her profits.
“We see a multinational corporation that has no respect for the rule of law but who at every turn loves to characterise local people as vandals and saboteurs. Who is the vandal: Shell or the people? Shell is contemptuous of our laws, of our peoples and of our environment. We are ashamed that our government is in an unholy wedlock with a corporation such as this,” he said.
Similarly, Friends of the Earth International’s Rights and Justice Campaigner, Alison Dilworth, said: “It is a disgrace that Shell has continued to flare gas, even though Nigeria’s high court has ruled it illegal and a breach of human rights. Once again, Shell has demonstrated its ongoing contempt for the people of the Niger Delta and the rule of law.”
Across the Niger Delta, giant flares burn all day and night, many of them close to peoples’ homes. Local communities suffer higher rates of respiratory diseases such as asthma because of the toxic chemicals in the gas. They also suffer constant noise, light and heat. Crop yields are damaged by air pollution. The flaring pumps clouds of black toxic smoke into the sky, causing more greenhouse gas emissions than any other single source in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Bank.
To Peter Roderick of the Climate Justice Programme, Shell‘s failure to comply with the court order is a further confirmation of the corporation’s disregard for the rule of law.
“So soon after its fraud over Nigerian reserves, it’s astonishing that Shell has not complied with this court order preventing it from continuing gross violations of human rights. Its behaviour seriously undermines respect for the rule of law that its operations depend on,” Roderick said.
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