Environmentalists urge Agip to obey Court verdict

Justice must take its course

Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on Monday urged the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) to respect the Supreme Court ruling on the land hosting its Obama flow station.

ERA/FoEN made the call in a field report signed by Mr Alagoa Morris, the Head of Field Operations in Bayelsa.

ERA’s call is coming on the heels of a recent protest by the people of Egebekiri in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa against Agip’s refusal to comply with the court judgment in favour of the community.

The Supreme Court had on July 13, 2007 ruled that Egebekiri Community was the legal owner of the land hosting the Agip oilfields.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that with the ruling, Agip was supposed to pay the community its rights and benefits in the form of royalties.

However, this was not the case as the company had continued to pay the supposed rights and benefits to other neighbouring communities.

Following the development, the community took their protest to the Obama flow station, which led to the disruption of production in four oil wells: 5, 7, 9 and 12.

The report noted that the residents were angry that Agip had allegedly failed to pay them any form of royalties or related with them officially since the company began oil exploration in the community over 40 years ago.

The community also lamented that in spite of the court judgment, Agip had continued to deny them their entitlements.

“The highest court in the land is the Supreme Court and Agip shouldn’t subject the ruling of the Supreme Court to any interpretation.

“What is expected of Agip is to explore a peaceful transition of benefits to the rightful owners of the land.

“ERA/FoEN is convinced from the testimonies received from members of the community that they have over stretched their patience.

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“Armed with a Supreme Court Judgment in their favour and being pushed to the wall, Agip should try and seek more positive ways of reacting to this matter,’’ the group said.

The ERA urged Agip to without further delay initiate steps to quickly address the issues before it degenerates into violence.

It also urged the Federal and State Governments to call Agip to order, especially in its refusal to honour the laws of the land, including the Supreme Court ruling.

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“If possible, the National Assembly should invite the management of Agip, since they are often quick to say the State House of Assembly has no jurisdiction since oil matters are on the exclusive legislative list.

“The people of Egebekiri should not only be commended for their peaceful disposition and exemplary conduct; but be given due recognition as landlords of Agip and whatever entitlements due them.

The group urged the people of Egebekiri to remain law-abiding and resist any temptation to resort to self-help.

NAN reports that ERA was founded in 1993 as an environmental pressure group, and joined FoEI in 1996.

The organisation is dedicated to the defence of human ecosystems in terms of human rights, and to the promotion of environmentally responsible governmental, commercial, community and individual practice in Nigeria through the empowerment of local people.

Much of its efforts have concentrated on multinational oil companies and the protection of the Niger Delta.

The group works locally, nationally and globally on the following campaigns: forest and biodiversity; energy and extractives; democracy outreach programme; food sovereignty and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), corporate accountability and environmental health.

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