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Italian oil giant ENI and its subsidiary in Nigeria, the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) “have violated the right to life and dignity of the human persons of the Ikebiri people (in the Niger Delta), because they have destroyed the source of their livelihood”, said to Real World Radio Nigerian lawyer Chima Williams, who submitted a legal complaint in Italy against these companies.
“This is a groundbreaking case because for the first time an Italian giant is brought before an Italian court for its misconduct outside Europe”, added Williams. And he said that if the case that was filed early May against the company is successful, it will help to strengthen the struggle against big transnational corporations for their crimes outside their countries of origin.
This is “a new chapter in livelihood protection litigation”, added Williams, and a precedent is set for companies that commit environmental crimes, he stated.
William is the lawyer of the Ikebiri community (Bayelsa state) in the case against ENI and he is also the chair of the Legal Department of Environmental Rights Action – Friends of the Earth Nigeria, which together with Friends of the Earth Europe are supporting the local inhabitants in the lawsuit.
The goal of the legal case is to clean the environment and compensate the community for the damage caused after an oil spill by ENI in 2010, provoked by equipment failure. An oil pipeline operated by NAOC burst 250 meters from a creek north of Ikebiri. It is estimated that 150 oil barrels ended up in the creek, affecting fishing ponds and trees essential to the local community, thus irreparably damaging their livelihoods, according to a press release issued by Friends of the Earth Europe on May 4th.
The leak was closed in 2010, and NAOC claims to have cleaned the area affected, but the community denounces that the oil leaked was just burnt without their consent. Adequate compensation and clean-up of the oil spill are yet to be addressed, states Friends of the Earth Europe in its press release.
Williams ensured that it is time for big transnational companies to start acting responsibly towards the citizens and the environment of the Southern countries where they operate. Otherwise, there will be more cases brought to justice just like the one against ENI and NAOC, concluded the Nigerian lawyer.
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