By Emeke Alexander
Renowned Nigerian lawyer, Femi Falana, has joined the legal team for Iwherekan community in Delta State against the appeal filed by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (Shell Nigeria), challenging the judgment of a Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, Edo State, which ordered the company in 2005 to stop gas flaring in the community.
The case was brought against Shell by Mr Jonah Gbemre, on behalf of himself and the Iwerekan community of Ughelli South Local Government Area in Delta State, supported by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria and the Climate Justice Programme, with Mr Chima Williams, a lawyer, of Chima Williams & Associates as the Executive Director.
At the Federal High Court in Benin City on November 14, 2005, Justice C. V. Nwokorie, in a case brought against Shell Nigeria, ruled that the damaging and wasteful practice of gas flaring by all the major oil companies including ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, TotalFinaElf and Agip, as well as Shell, in joint ventures with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, cannot lawfully continue and must stop.
The Federal High Court judge, Justice C.V. Nwokorie, also in the 2005 judgment declared the Nigerian gas flaring law to be unconstitutional, and ordered the Attorney General to meet with the Federal Executive Council to bring the law into line with present-day practice, rules and regulations governing oil and gas activities.
On April 11, 2006, the Federal High Court further refused to grant Shell Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) a stay of execution on its judgment of November 14, 2005, ordering them to stop flaring gas in the Iwherekan community.
After several years of Shell allegedly being in contempt of court, the oil giant eventually in 2021 filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal in Benin-city, Edo State.
Briefing the people of Iwherekan community on the current state of affairs at their town hall, Chima Williams, said Shell in its appeal which first came up October 7, 2021, was appealing the November 14, 2005, judgment of the Federal High Court.
Williams explained to the Head of Edion in Council of Iwherekan community, Sir Patrick Bakporhe, the community President General, Comrade Rufus Onokurhefe, the Secretary, Comrade Omoberayen Efeturi and other stakeholders present at the town hall briefing that the resumed hearing of the case will come up on Thursday, January 20, 2022.
He added that to strengthen their legal team, they have been able to secure the services of former President of the West Africa Bar Association (WABA), Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to join forces with B.E.I. Nwanfor, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who has been handling the case.
Williams said Shell was appealing the November 14, 2005, judgment of the Federal High Court on the ground that the issue should not have come by way of enforcement of fundamental rights in which the plaintiff should have proved their claims scientifically.
This, he however noted is within the justice system and the justices of the Court to determine whether their application came through the right process or not.
Nigeria is regarded as the world’s biggest gas flarer contributing more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined.
Experts say gas flaring poisons localities with their toxic cocktail.