For allegedly polluting their community and failing to take responsibility, the Ikebiri community in Bayelsa State has sued Italian oil giant ENI and its subsidiary, Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC), its subsidiary in Nigeria.
In a joint statement by Friends of the Earth (FOE) Europe and Environmental Rights Action (ERA) /Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoE), the community said they opted for the Italian courts having failed to
get justice here in Nigeria.
According to the Head, Media and Campaigns ERA/FoE Nigeria, Mr. Philip Jakpor, the demands of the community, which led to the unprecedented legal case, was for the companies involved to clean up and compensate for damages from an oil spill which has affected their community in the Niger Delta.
He said: “Supported by Friends of the Earth Europe and ERA/ FoE Nigeria, the Ikebiri community are calling for adequate compensation and clean-up of an oil spill dating back to 2010, which has yet to be addressed.
“The Italian oil giant ENI, which operates in Nigeria through its subsidiary NAOC, is responsible for the spill, caused by equipment failure.
“To date, 11 million barrels of oil have been spilled in the Delta, twice the amount spilled during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and new spills still occur weekly.
“Environmental Rights Action (Friends of the Earth Nigeria) and Friends of the Earth Europe continue to campaign for the clean-up of the region.
“The communities of the Niger Delta have had to live for decades with the effects of continuous oil spills on their health, the welfare and their livelihoods.
“Thousands of oil spills have blighted the communities across the Niger Delta to feed the profits of ENI, Shell and other oil and gas companies, according to the organisations.”
Also, Godwin Ojo, of ERA/FoE said the spill which could have been managed spread to a huge expanse of the Ikebiri swampland due to the alleged nonchalance of the ENI/NAOC over oil spill clean-up and remediation.
He said: “This case, which is the first of its kind against ENI and in Italy, could have been avoided were ENI/NAOC to have behaved responsibly.
“This act of impunity and recklessness of the oil companies against the environment and people of the Niger Delta of Nigeria must come to an end.
“The leak was closed in 2010, and NAOC claims to have cleaned up the site. However, according to the community the leaked oil in the surrounding area was simply burned, without their consent. To date, no adequate compensation has been offered, or clean-up completed. “
Also speaking, the King of Ikebiri Community, Chief Francis Temi Ododo, said: “Our community cannot wait any longer. We have had the ENI’s pollution for too long, damaging our fishing, our farming and our lives. We are now looking to the Italian courts for justice for our people.”
Speaking for Friends of the Earth Europe, its extractive industries campaigner, Colin Roche, said: “For far too long the communities of the Niger Delta have had to live with the pollution of their land, their water, and their air by oil companies who’ve put profit before their lives.
“ENI should now live up to its responsibility and clean up the mess it has made and compensate the community for having to live with their destruction?”