Shell still flaring gas, defying Nigerian courts

3 May 2007

EU should rein in Shell's reckless behaviour outside Europe

Brussels, 3 May 2007 - In response to the news that Shell has defied a court order and continues to emit huge quantities of toxic and greenhouse gases in Nigeria by gas flaring, Friends of the Earth Europe has called on the European Commission to order European companies operating in the rest of the world to act according to European standards. [1]


Photo credits: Peter Roderick.Download mages of gas flaring in Nigeria

Friends of the Earth Europe's Extractive Industries campaigner Darek Urbaniak said:
"Shell is an EU-based company hoping to get away with acting irresponsibly outside Europe. The emissions released by Shell's gas flaring are contributing to climate change and inflicting leukaemia, asthma and acid raid on the local community. It is shameful to condone lower standards in Nigeria than we would in the EU so the European Commission has a responsibility to use their authority to stop this destructive practice." [2]

Shell Nigeria told the Federal High Court in Benin City, Nigeria on Monday that it had disobeyed a court order to stop flaring gas in the Iwherekan community in the turbulent and oil-rich Niger delta region. In 2006, the court had ordered Shell to stop all flaring by April 2007, declaring it a violation of the constitutionally-guaranteed rights to life and dignity of the local community. [3]

Gas flaring is practiced by companies like Shell to burn off the natural gas that is released when they drill for oil. There are alternative solutions for recovery of this associated gas which do not have the severe environmental impacts of gas flaring.

If recovered and sold instead of flared, Nigeria's natural gas resource could earn it about 2.5 billion US dollars annually, a significant sum when more than 66 percent of its population live on less than 1 US dollar a day.

Friends of the Earth Europe has highlighted the discord between the European company's ongoing gas flaring, and the EU's recent commitment to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by at least 20 percent compared to 1990 levels. At the EU Spring Council meeting press conference in March, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso claimed that "Europe is taking the lead" on fighting climate change.

Friends of the Earth Europe's Corporate campaigner Paul de Clerck said:
"Gas flaring in Nigeria is the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in Sub-Saharan Africa. To genuinely show leadership on fighting climate change, the EU must intervene." [4]

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NOTES TO EDITORS:

[1] The European Union is a member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership, an initiative that encourages alternative procedures to flaring gas.

[2] More information on the gas flaring in Nigeria is contained in a report published in June
2005 by the Climate Justice Programme and Environmental Rights Action, 'Gas Flaring in Nigeria:
A human rights, environmental and economic monstrosity', which is available here, in both HTML and PDF versions:
http://www.climatelaw.org/media/gas.flaring/report/

Another report, by the Shell Accountability Coalition, titled "Shell: Use your profits to clean up your mess"� from January 2007 argues that Shell should fund local solutions for environmental and social destruction caused by its projects:
http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2007/SHELL_Use_profits_for%20_damage_report.pdf

[3] CHRONOLOGY OF THE COURT CASE

14th November 2005: the Federal High Court of Nigeria:
(1) held that gas flaring is a "gross violation" of the constitutionally-guaranteed rights to life and dignity, which include the right to a "clean poison-free, pollution-free healthy environment";
(2) ordered Shell to stop flaring in the Iwerekhan community immediately;
(3) declared the gas flaring laws to be "unconstitutional, null and void"; and
(4) ordered the Attorney General to meet with the Federal Executive Council to set in motion the necessary processes for new gas flaring legislation that is consistent with the constitution.

The judgment is here:
http://www.climatelaw.org/media/media/gas.flaring.suit.nov2005/ni.shell.nov05.judgment.pdf

16th December 2005: Flaring was still continuing 32 days after the judgment, and so contempt of court proceedings were filed against Shell and NNPC, for disobeying the order.

11th April 2006: The Federal High Court ordered (1) the Managing Director of Shell Nigeria, Chief Basil Omiyi; (2) the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Eng. Funsho Kupolokun; (3) the Nigerian Petroleum Minister, Chief Edmund Dakoru; and (4) the Company Secretary of NNPC, Chief Mrs. Sena Anthony, to appear before him to present in open court a quarterly programme for stopping gas flaring in the Iwherekan community by 30th April 2007. On this basis, Shell was granted a stay of execution until 30th April 2007.
The Court of Appeal subsequently ordered the court not to sit on the day appointed for the personal appearances.

[4] Nigeria has been the world's biggest gas flarer, and the practice has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined, according to a World Bank 2002 statement.

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