17 December 2012

West Africa: Ecowas Court Finds FG Liable On Niger Delta

Photo: Vanguard
Living with oil spill in Ogoniland, Nigeria.

Ibadan — The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice sitting in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital has found the Federal Government liable the alleged violation of human rights and associated oil pollution of the people of the Niger Delta by the six oil companies.

In about two-hour judgment delivered by the Vice-President of the court, Justice Benfeito Mosso Ramos, on behalf other Justices, the court emphasised that the Federal Government's non-challant attitude was grossly responsible for the environmental pollution primarily caused by the oil multi-national corporations that was causing food scarcity, poverty, sickness and so on to the people of the Niger Delta.

The judgment followed a litigation filed by the Registered Trustees of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) against the Federal Government and six oil companies over alleged violation of human rights and associated oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

The court further declared that was not swayed by the defence of the Federal Government that she had set up Niger Delta Ministry, offered 13 per cent derivation to the area among others. The court declared, "it clearly shows that the said agencies or ministry established by the federal government exist on papers" and therefore urged the Federal Government to be alive to her responsibility as stated under the ECOWAS law and Africa Treaty."

Justice Ramos, however, dismissed the $1billion USD compensation demanded by the plaintiffs in the case declaring that the plaintiffs failed to identify who would collect the money, those that would share it and the yard stick for sharing it among others.

SERAP had instituted the litigation with registration number ECW/CCJ/APP/07/10 d against the Federal Government and six oil companies over alleged violation of human rights and associated oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

SERAP also wanted the court to decide whether the government is responsible for the pollution primarily caused by the operations of multinational corporations in the Niger Delta, and whether the government has breached its due diligence obligation.

SERAP's case dated July 25, 2009, had alleged violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, to work, to health, to water, to life and human dignity, to a clean and healthy environment; and to economic and social development-as a consequence of the impact of oil-related pollution and environmental damage on agriculture and fisheries.

Meanwhile, the ECOWAS court treated about 10 cases involving violation of human rights, which involved ECOWAS member countries as well as individuals, who filed complaints with the court during its one week sitting in Ibadan

Countries whose cases were treated included Togo, Nigeria, Cote D'ivoire, Niger Republic and ECOWAS commission brought by individuals and country against country. The court treated five cases brought from Togo, two from Cote DI'voire, one each Nigeria, Niger and ECOWAS commission

One of the cases was between Gnassingbe Kpatcha and others vs. Republic of Togo.

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