***Update 18 April: The Milan court hearing scheduled today on the Nigerian Ikebiri community's case against oil giant ENI/NAOC has been postponed as, both parties sought the court's permission to suspend the case to allow them to explore further the possibility of an out-of-court settlement that could end the conflict. We expect that the company will now offer adequate compensation and clean up according to the community's legitimate grievance. The court has agreed to set the next hearing for October 23, 2018.***
On 9 January, the Italian oil and gas corporation ENI appeared in front of the Tribunal of Milan to answer for its record of oil pollution in Nigeria. The plaintiff is the Ikebiri community of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta, represented by their leader Chief Francis Ododo, whose land was polluted by an oil spill in 2010.
If successful, this will be the first case of an Italian corporation being held accountable by an Italian court for environmental and human rights abuses overseas.
The people of Ikebiri are seeking adequate clean-up and compensation from ENI for the pollution of the creek, ponds and trees caused by its subsidiary’s equipment. Friends of the Earth Europe and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria are supporting the community in bringing the case to court.
The king of the Ikebiri community, Chief Francis Ododo said: “After over seven years of struggle to get ENI to clean up its oil pollution, I welcome the start of the case and hope to finally see justice for my community.”
Colin Roche, extractive industries campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “It’s time ENI was held to account for its impact on the people of Nigeria. If the Ikebiri community win their lawsuit and obtain redress from ENI, this will give hope to the many other communities affected by oil pollution in the Niger Delta, and by corporate crimes in general.”
The spill in Ikebiri is just one of hundreds every year in Nigeria from the pipelines of international oil companies.
A ray of hope for the Ikebiri and other communities affected by corporate crime: Pollution lawsuit against Italian oil giant @eni started - https://t.co/MubBoD2mO1 #AccesstoJustice #ENIguilty pic.twitter.com/rjcxSqXvi3— Friends of the Earth (@foeeurope) January 9, 2018
Godwin Ojo, director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, said: "The people of Nigeria have, for decades, been suffering from the negligence of oil majors which has destroyed lives and livelihoods while providing vast profits to these same companies. It’s time to end their impunity and see the Ikebiri community’s land cleaned up.”
The case continues with the next hearing scheduled for 18 April in Milan.