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Communities Sue Shell to Stop Nigerian Gas Flaring
20 June 2005
LAGOS, NIGERIA/London, UK, 20th June 2005 - Communities from across the Niger Delta, with the support of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA), have today filed a legal action against the Nigerian government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Total and Agip joint venture companies to stop gas flaring.
More gas is flared in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world, and flaring in the country has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined according to the World Bank.
The cocktail of toxic substances which has been emitted in the flares for over 40 years, including benzene and particulates, has exposed Niger Delta communities to severe health risks and property damage, in violation of their human rights.
Moreover, flaring has been in general prohibited under environmental regulations since 1984, unless a ministerial consent has been lawfully issued and conditions are complied with. Despite requests by ERA, no consents or conditions have been disclosed by any of the companies.
The annual financial loss to Nigeria from gas flared has been put at about US $2.5 billion, while about two-thirds of the population are estimated by the World Bank to live on less than US $1 a day.
The filing of the case is accompanied by the publication today of a 36-page report entitled "Gas Flaring in Nigeria: A human rights, environmental and economic monstrosity", written by the Climate Justice Programme and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria. The report is available here:
An online version of the report is available here:
The report's Executive Summary is available online here:
A 2-page Fact Sheet on Nigerian Gas Flaring is set out at the end of this press release.
Comrade Che Ibegwura from Erema, an Egi community in Rivers State said:
"For many years, we have been living with continuous flaring of gas from TotalFinaElf. Our farmlands have been polluted. We labour hard to plant but little comes out. Our roofs are corroded. Our air is polluted. Our children are sick. Even the rainwater we drink is contaminated with black soot from the gas flares. We cannot continue with this suffering. We need to take legal action to protect ourselves, our children and our future."
Tare Dadiowei from Gbarain community in Bayelsa State commented:
"It is our hope that the laws of Nigeria will protect us from the continuous violations of our human rights and destruction of our livelihood by Shell. While Shell makes cheap excuses for the continuing flaring of gas in our communities, we bear the huge costs with our contaminated air and soil, diseases and death"
Reverend Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, described the filing of the legal case as:
"a major step in our collective effort as citizens of Nigeria to make oil and gas corporations and the government behave responsibly. For too long we have witnessed the atrocious flaring of associated gas by profiteering oil corporations that hold the people in utmost contempt. We are calling on the law to defend our impoverished citizens".
Peter Roderick, co-Director of the Climate Justice Programme said:
"As the G8 prepares to discuss climate change and Africa, Nigerian gas flaring provides them with an outrageous example of the problems. It is a shameful and indefensible stain on the reputation of western oil companies. The appalling waste of greenhouse gases in one of the world poorest countries is a violation of the human rights of those subjected to the flaring. It is astonishing that it continues on such a scale when Nigerian regulations have prohibited the practice in general since 1984."
Paul de Clerck, Coordinator of the Friends of the Earth International Corporate campaign said:
"Everyone agrees that gas flaring should stop because it is bad for people's health and the environment. Nevertheless, the oil companies continue to prolong it. Last month Shell announced that it would not abide by its commitment to end gas flaring by 2008. Continuing to ruin people's life for more years is totally unacceptable."
Photographs of the flaring are also freely downloadable, without watermarks, from these sites:
Footage of gas flaring can be viewed online at: http://tv.oneworld.net/
The action was filed this morning 20th June 2005 in the Federal High Court of Nigeria in Benin City. The communities bringing the action include Rumuekpe, Akala-Olu, Erema and Idama (Rivers State); Ewherekan (Delta State); EKET (Akwa Ibom State) and Imiringi and Gbarain (Bayelsa State).
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria is dedicated to the defence of human ecosystems in terms of human rights, and to the promotion of environmentally responsible governmental, commercial, community and individual practice in Nigeria through the empowerment of local people: www.eraction.org
The Climate Justice Programme is an initiative hosted by Friends of the Earth International. It aims to encourage and support the enforcement of the law internationally to combat climate change. Over 70 organisations and lawyers are signatories to its Statement of Support, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF and organizations based in developing countries: www.climatelaw.org
Nigerian Gas Flaring
1. How much gas is flared in Nigeria?
More gas is flared in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world. The gas industry statistics publisher, Cedigaz, indicates that Nigeria accounted for 19.79% of global flaring in 2001 (latest year), more than the second (Iran) and third (Indonesia) countries combined: see Statistical Leaflet available here: www.cedigaz.org
The UNDP/World Bank in 2004 estimated Nigerian flaring at close to 2.5 billion cubic feet daily (over 70 million cubic metres daily), amounting to about 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Strategic Gas Plan for Nigeria, Joint UNDP/World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP) (February 2004), paragraph 2.5.
2. Some of the effects of flaring in Nigeria
The cocktail of toxic substances which has been emitted in the flares for over 40 years, including benzene and particulates, has exposed Niger Delta communities to health risks and property damage, in violation of their human rights. The flares affect their livelihood and expose them to an increased risk of premature deaths, child respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer, as well as acid rain. For example, conservative assumptions using World Bank information on the adverse effect of particulates, suggests that gas flaring from just one part of the Niger Delta (Bayelsa State) would likely cause annually 49 premature deaths, 4,960 respiratory illnesses among children and 120, asthma attacks.
This exposure violates Nigerian constitutional guarantees, for example, of the fundamental rights to life (Article 33) and to dignity (Article 34). It also violates the rights guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, for example, of every individual to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health (Article 16) and of all peoples to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development (Article 24).
Flaring in the country "has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined" according to the World Bank.
Memorandum of the President of the International Development Association and the International Finance Corporation to the Executive Directors on an Interim Strategy Update for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, February 13, 2002, Report No. 23633-UNI, paragraph 15.
The UNDP/World Bank figure of 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would have made Nigeria the world's 42nd biggest emitter of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel and cement manufacture in 2000, ahead of Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. This ranking is obtained from the World Resources Institute's Climate Analysis Indicators Tool, available here: http://cait.wri.org
3. What's the cost of gas flaring in Nigeria?
The annual financial loss to Nigeria from gas flared has been put at about US $2.5 billion:
"[F]laring represents a significant economic loss (lost opportunity value estimated at some US$2.5 billion, based on LNG values)."
Strategic Gas Plan for Nigeria, Joint UNDP/World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP) (February 2004), page 13, paragraph 1.13.
At the same time, about two-thirds of the population are estimated by the World Bank to live on less than US $1 a day:
"GNP per capita, at about US$320, is below the level at independence forty years ago and below the US$370 that it gained in 1985. About 66 percent of the population now falls below the poverty line of roughly one U.S. dollar a day, compared to 43 percent in 1985."
4. What do the regulations say?
Apart from human rights law, flaring has been in general prohibited under environmental regulations since 1st January 1984, unless a ministerial consent has been lawfully issued and conditions are complied with. Under section 3 of the Associated Gas Reinjection Act 1979, a consent can only be issued if the Minister is satisfied that utilization or reinjection is not appropriate or feasible in a particular field or fields. If a consent is issued, the Minister is empowered to require the companies to pay a sum (reported in 2002 to be 10 Naira per million cubic feet (about 4 UK pence or 7 US cents), and under the Associated Gas Re-injection (Continued Flaring of Gas) Regulations 1984 certain conditions must be met. Despite requests by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, no consents or conditions have been disclosed by any of the companies.
Fact Sheet produced by the Climate Justice Programme and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, June 2005
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Last modified: Jun 2008