Date of text
Sabin Center
Court name
Federal Court of Nigeria
Reference number
Climate Change

The applicant, Gbemre, a representative of the Niger Delta Iwherekan community instituted an action against (i) the Nigerian government for its failure to stop the oil and gas company Shell in gas flaring for decades and (ii) Shell for engaging in massive and unceasingly intense gas flaring in the community, in the course of its exploration and production activities (jointly respondents). The applicant argues that Shell failed to consider the environmental impact of its activities on the communities’ means of livelihood, collective survival, as well as the gas flaring’s contribution to the adverse and potentially life-threatening effects of climate change. The applicant claimed that such gas flaring activities violated the community’s rights to life and human dignity as constitutionally guaranteed by sections 33 and 34 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, and reinforced by Articles 4, 16, and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ratified and domesticated by Nigeria as Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004).

The Federal Hight Court held that these constitutionally guaranteed rights inevitably include the rights to a clean, poison and pollution free environment. The federal Judge ruled that the actions of the respondents in allowing and continuing to flare gas in the applicant’s community is a violation of their fundamental rights to a clean and healthy environment. The judge further ruled that Shell’s failure to carry out an EIA is a clear violation of the EIA Act and a violation of said rights. The Judge’s ordered them to take immediate steps to stop gas flaring. The Judge further ordered the Attorney General of Nigeria to ensure speedy amendment of the Associated Gas Re-injection Act to be in line with Nigeria’s human rights obligations under both the Constitution and the African Charter. The Judge made no award of damages, costs, or compensation.

Key environmental legal questions

Challenge to the practice of gas flaring in the Niger Delta by oil and gas companies