Akwa Ibom Oil Producing Community Development Network (AKIPCON) – a frontline non-governmental human rights advocacy Organization spearheading the struggle for the realization of the payment of compensation to the peasant fishermen, farmers and allied business operators in Akwa Ibom State has dragged Total Exploration & Production Nig. Ltd. and Moni-Pulo Ltd. to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Abuja.
This is in view of the dissatisfactory judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on 5th March, 2021 by the learned Judge Hon. Justice Mohammed L. Shuaibu. In a fresh suit filed on the 24th June, 2021 in the Supreme Court, Abuja by C. A. Gbehe, Esq. of Maren Chambers, Abuja, the Applicant’s lawyer maintained that the learned justices of the Court of Appeal, Calabar erred in law when they delivered judgment that “It is ultra vires the power of the National Human Rights Commission and its Special Investigation Panel to conduct investigation in respect of allegation of environmental pollution vis-à-vis, the adverse effect arising from the oil exploration activities of the companies.
The learned Counsel maintained that the National Human Rights Commission acted within the ambit of the powers of the Enabling Act creating the Commission adding that the National Human Rights Commission Act 1995 (as amended) has provided the powers under which the Commission acted. He observed that the Commission acted intra vires the statutory powers conferred on the Commission by its enabling Act.
The learned Counsel quoted Article 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which provide that “All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development”. Section 21 (5) of the same Charter also provides that “States parties to this present Charter shall undertake to eliminate all forms or foreign economic exploitation particularly that practiced by International monopolies so as to enable their people to fully benefit from the advantages derived from their natural resources”. Also, Article 7 (1)(a) of the Charter also gives the Commission the powers to hear and determine complaints concerning the violation of human rights anywhere they occur.
He also referred to Section 6(1)(a) of the National Human Rights Commission Act which gives it the powers to “conduct its investigations and inquires in such a manner as it considered appropriate while Section 6(1)(e) gives the Commission the powers to make determination as to the damages or compensation payable in relation to any violation of human rights where it deems necessary in the circumstances of the case”.
The Learned Counsel observed further that no country or state is allowed to make domestic laws that will dilute the provisions of international treaties to which it is a signatory. Therefore, the Commission has the powers to monitor and investigate all cases of human rights violations in Nigeria and make appropriate recommendations to the Federal Government for the prosecution and such other action as it may deem expedient in each circumstance.
Commenting on the new development, Dr. Ufot Phenson – the President General of AKIPCON remarked that his Organization will not relent in its effort to ensure that oil companies whose activities have devastated Akwa Ibom environment as well as violate human rights of our people will not fail to face the consequences of their actions. The President General of AKIPCON also observed that the Organization will follow the relevant provisions of the law in its dealings with oil companies, especially the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as it relates to the elimination of all forms of foreign economic exploitation practiced by oil companies which has prevented our people from benefiting fully from the advantage derived from their natural resources.
Also Speaking the Secretary General of the Organization – Evang. Emmanuel Bassey called on AKIPCON members and the good people of Akwa Ibom State to support the struggle for the payment of compensation to the downtrodden of Akwa Ibom State whose means of livelihood and means of better tomorrow have been destroyed by oil pollution due to the negligence of oil companies operating in Akwa Ibom State for decades now