In 2017 the Nigerian community of Ikebiri launched a court case against the Italian oil company ENI demanding clean-up of and compensation for an oil spill caused in 2010 by the failure of ENI’s pipeline. Friends of the Earth Europe and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA) have been supporting the community in this unprecedented court case which was started in Italy in January 2018.
Being sued in their home country has forced the company to deal with the damage they inflicted on the community. They have offered an out-of-court settlement and after some months of negotiations parties have now concluded those discussions. ENI committed to overhaul existing electricity generator sets, renovate the community’s health centre, construct 4 kilometres of concrete road and provide electricity directly to the Ikebiri communities.
Friends of the Earth Europe and ERA are satisfied that the court case brought by the community against ENI has obliged the company to finally respond substantively to the community's demand for justice. However, the responsibility to clean up their oil pollution in Ikebiri and to fulfil its other commitments remains with ENI.
King Francis Ododo, Ikebiri community leader and plaintiff in the court case said
No individual community suffering from ENI’s crimes has been able to take ENI to court on an international level and get a result such as this. Only if the company keeps its promises, we have truly got justice.
The court case, has shown that the Italian courts are willing to listen to complaints regarding the activities of Italian multinationals abroad and that the way is open for further litigation of this kind.
Luca Saltalamacchia, Italian lawyer for the Ikebiri community said
For the first time an Italian court has heard how Italian companies are damaging the lives and livelihoods of impoverished communities overseas. Now we have to ensure that more communities have access to justice and more companies can be brought to account.
This case underlines the need for international binding rules to hold companies accountable. Only the threat of a court case pressured ENI to pay for the damage they caused. A binding UN treaty on business and human rights would make it much easier for victims of companies like ENI to obtain justice.
While the Niger Delta remains one of the most polluted places on Earth and many other communities across the Delta face daily threats to their health and livelihoods from the oil industry, Friends of the Earth will continue to support them in their fight for justice, in the courts and beyond.