The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has urged ExxonMobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited to urgently comply with the recent Federal High Court judgment which ordered it to pay the sum of N81.9 billion as compensation for oil spills from the company’s facilities which occurred between 2000 and 2010.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had recently in a judgment gave ExxonMobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) 14 days ultimatum to pay N81.9 billion to the fishing and farming communities in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
The affected fishing and farming communities had dragged ExxonMobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and the NNPC to court, demanding adequate compensation for several oil spills that destroyed their rivers, streams, and other sources of livelihoods.
The Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, described the judgment as a landmark judgment on the long walk to environmental justice and the protection of the environment and livelihoods.
Dr. Ojo said, “The judgment is also significant because payment of compensation to the victims of oil pollution will impact positively on the lives of the people of the Niger Delta suffering under the heavy burden of oil spills pollution and destruction of their livelihoods”.
He said further that such court judgment represents “a conflict arbitration resolution mechanism that will help to rekindle hope in the court system that justice may be delayed by oil companies with a war chest for huge legal fees, but cannot be denied. There is no more hiding place for oil companies and they should take full responsibility to comply immediately, and to clean up and pay up compensation immediately”.
“By this victory, the impacted people will likely no longer resort to self-help. The landmark judgment speaks to the question of access to justice that is being upheld and given relevance. With this victory, it is hoped that many communities will approach the courts with thousands of oil spills and pollution cases pending some of which are yet to come before the courts or to get a date in court.
Dr. Ojo stated that this and other recent: “judgments delivered by courts in the Netherlands involving fishermen from Goi, in Rivers state, Oruma in Bayelsa state and Ikot Ada Udo in Akwa Ibom state against Shell and the decision recently handed down in the case instituted by the Ogale community in Eleme Local government area of Rivers state against Shell in the courts of justice in London will galvanize local communities to redouble their effort to hold all polluters in the country accountable for their deleterious actions.”