Two human rights groups have issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to provide detailed description of measures it has taken to implement the ruling of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, court on environment and the standard of living the people of the Niger Delta.
The two groups, Amnesty International, AI, and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, said a joint Freedom of Information, FOI, request has been issued demanding the government to make public steps already taken to implement the court’s ruling.
According to the groups, part of their demands also includes that the government pays the Niger Delta people compensation for the harm their communities are suffering over the years, prevent damage to the environment caused by oil-spills, restore devastated environment and hold oil companies accountable.
Last December, the ECOWAS court ruled in a case by the Registered Trustees of SERAP against the Federal government and major oil companies for “oil spills pollute water, destruction of aquatic life and soil fertility, with attendant adverse effect on the health and means of livelihood of people in its vicinity.”
The companies joined in the suits are Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, Shell Petroleum Development Company,SPDC, ELF Petroleum Nigeria Limited, EPNL, Nigeria Agip Oil Company, NAOC, Chevron Oil Nigeria PLC, Total Nigeria PLC and Exxon Mobil.
The groups declared that the government has failed “in recent years to take any single action to punish perpetrators of oil pollution.”
In a letter sent to the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Bello Adoki, the organisations asked government to sanction the companies by taking steps to publicly acknowledge the oil judgment and to express the government’s commitment to comply fully with the judgment.
Other demands include information on punitive measures against erring companies; the timeframe for the implementation of the measures, areas of the region covered, what government is doing to fully and effectively implement all past spill reports; governments to ensure that the oil and gas companies take immediate steps to stop flaring of natural gas, and to clean up oil spills as well as an indication if the effort will be achieved by the making of new laws or policies.
“We want to know exactly the level and nature of fines imposed on oil companies for breaching regulations over the past 10 years; and the measures taken by the government to punish the companies. We want to know whether the government has ever investigated the role that oil companies and others have played and continued to play in the environmental pollution in the region, and the outcome of any such investigation,” the groups said.
The FOI request also demands publishing “the names of all oil companies’ representatives based in state and federal government ministries and duration of their stay in the ministries; the details of their salaries and their remit; persons who authorised their work in Ministries ; details of gifts paid by oil companies to Ministries or their employees or donations; and efforts to end the practice where oil companies place their employees or other agents (paid or unpaid) within government ministries.
The government has up to up to the 4th of February, 2013 to comply with the request.