Court Orders Nigerian Gas Flaring to Stop

Children near gas flares
Children carrying water near gas flares at Shell`s Obigbo oilfield, near Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
PHOTO: Peter Roderick, www.climatelaw.org

E-LAW U.S. celebrates a landmark victory for the people of Nigeria`s Niger Delta. In a case against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (Shell), a judge for the Federal High Court of Nigeria ordered that gas flaring must stop. The judge found that gas flaring violates citizens` constitutional rights to life and dignity. Gas flaring is the outdated practice of using open flames to burn off associated gases that are extracted from the earth along with crude oil. Flaring generates greenhouses gases and subjects local communities to constant heat, light, noise, and air pollution. Over the last 40 years, pollution from flares has destroyed crops and exposed Delta residents to an increased risk of premature death, respiratory illnesses, asthma, and cancer. Nigeria has been the world`s biggest gas flarer, and the practice has contributed more greenhouse gases than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined. The wasteful practice costs Nigeria about US$2.5 billion annually, while about 66% of its population lives on less than US$1 a day. E-LAW U.S. Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason has traveled to Nigeria, and Nigerian environmental lawyers have come to Eugene to work with E-LAW U.S. E-LAW U.S. provided scientific and legal support to help win this victory. This sweeping decision against Shell should end flaring by all companies in the Niger Delta, including ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, TotalFinaElf, and Agip. E-LAW U.S. Executive Director Bern Johnson said: "We are thrilled to have helped bring justice to the people of the Niger Delta. For too long, they have suffered while oil companies have made millions selling Nigeria’s oil." Reverend Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, commented:

"For the first time, a court of competence has boldly declared that Shell, Chevron and the other oil corporations have been engaged in illegal activities here for decades. We expect this judgement to be respected and that for once the oil corporations will accept the truth and bring their sinful flaring activities to a halt. "This victory marks a new dawn in the struggle of the communities of the Niger Delta to have these flares of hell switched off. For the first time there is a hope that children here can hope to have a dark, quiet night, enjoy the chirps of birds and rest their ear drums from the awful noise of these gas flares."

E-LAW U.S. congratulates the lawyers at Environmental Rights Action and the courageous people of the Iwherekan community who are leading this pioneering effort. Congratulations also to the Climate Justice Programme for its tremendous support. For more information, visit: www.climatelaw.org.

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Nigeria has been the world`s biggest gas flarer. Now, in a case against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, the Federal High Court of Nigeria has ruled that the flaring violates citizens` constitutional rights to life and dignity, and must sto