The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited has filed an appeal challenging the judgement of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin, Edo State, which ordered stoppage to continued flaring of gas in Iwhrekan community in Delta State.
Iwhrekan community is one of the host communities to West Africa’s biggest gas plant, Otorogu Gas Plant, in Ughelli South, Delta State, where Shell has been flaring gas for decades.
Justice J. Nwokorie of the Federal High Court, Benin, had in a case instituted by Mr Jonah Gbemre on behalf of Iwhrekan community ordered SPDC to stop the flaring of gas in the community.
The suit had SPDC, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as first, second and third defendants respectively.
Justice Nwokorie also declared that the “actions of the 1 and 2 Respondents in continuing to flare gas in the course of their oil exploration and production activities in the Applicant’s Community is a violation of their fundamental rights to life (including healthy environment) and dignity of the human person guaranteed by Section 31) and 34(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999…”
The community in suit no FHC/B/CS/53/05 had sought the court, “Declaration that the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to life and dignity of the human person provided in Sections 33(1) and 34(1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and reinforced by Arts 4, 16 and 24 of the African Charter on Human Procedure Rules (Procedure and Enforcement) Act. Cap A9, Vol. Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 inevitably includes the right to clean poison-free, pollution-free and healthy environment.
“A declaration that the actions of the 1” and 2 Respondents in continuing to flare gas in the course of their oil exploration and production activities in the Applicant’s Community is a violation of their fundamental rights to life (including healthy environment) and dignity of the human person guaranteed by Sections 3301) and 34(1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and reinforced by Arts 4, 16 and 24 of the African Charter on Human Procedure Rules (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap, A9 Vol. I Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“A declaration that the failure of the 1 and 2 Respondents to carry out an environmental impact assessment in the Applicant’s Community concerning the effects of their gas flaring activities is a violation of Section 2(2) of the Environment Impact Assessment Act, Cap. E12 Vol. 6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and contributed to the violation of the Applicant’s said fundamental rights to life and dignity of the person.
“An order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the 1 and 2 Respondents by themselves or by their agents, servants, contractors of workers or otherwise howsoever from further daring of gas in the Applicants said Community.”
Dissatisfied with the judgement, SPDC filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin with suit No. CA/B/419/2017, asking the appellate court to determine if the lower court judge had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Shell is also appealing that the evidence relied upon for the judgement by the trial judge were not scientifically proven by Mr Gbemre and Iwhrekan community before judgement was given in their favour.
The appeal suit which is slated for hearing on January 20th, 2022, at the Court of Appeal, Benin, has Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Ltd and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as applicants while Mr Jonah Gbemre (for Iwhrekan community) and Attorney General of the Federation as respondents.
Meanwhile, lawyer to Iwhrekan community, Prince Chima Williams of Chima Williams & Associates Law Firm, said they were ready to defend the position of the law and ensure that justice was served to the people of the oil-rich community.
Prince Williams also disclosed that renowned constitutional lawyer and activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) has joined the community’s legal team to defend the judgement of the Federal High Court in the favour of Iwhrekan people.
Addressing journalists after briefing members of the Iwhrekan community on the latest development in the case, Prince Williams said, “On the 20th of January, the case of Shell against Jonah Gbemre (for Iwhrekan community) and others will be coming up at the Court of Appeal in Benin City for hearing.
“We are here to intimate Iwhrekan community of the continuation of the case so that those who want to be in court to hear and know what is going on will have the opportunity to do so.”
On the judgement delivered in favour of the community, he said, “In 2005, a Federal High Court in Benin made a pronouncement that the continued flaring of gas in Iwhrekan community by Shell violates the citizens’ rights to life and dignity of the human person, and ordered Shell to stop gas flare immediately.
“In that judgement, the court said the continued flaring of gas contributes to Nigeria’s contributions to in-house emission that leads to climate change. Shell is arguing that we should have proved our case scientifically…ours is to defend the judgement which has been declared in our favour at the appeal level.”
The people of Iwhrekan are hopeful that the appellate court will uphold the judgement of the lower court.