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Category Archives: ERA in the News

New PIB: Communities In Bayelsa Seek Inclusion Of Oil Community In New Development Fund

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Residents of Ikarama and Okordia communities in Bayelsa, have suggested the inclusion of Host Community Development Fund in the new version of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill before its passage into law.

The residents made the call on Wednesday at an Environmental Parliament held in Ikarama, to intimate residents with the provisions of the Bill, which is currently before the National Assembly.

80 participants drawn from representatives of oil bearing communities, youths and women groups, among others, advocated the inclusion of the Host Communities Fund in the Bill.

A new version of the PIB, which removed the Host Community Development Fund, initially proposed in the earlier version, has been re-presented for deliberation at the National Assembly.

At the Environmental Parliament organised by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), the participants were unanimous in calling for the reinstatement of the Host Community Development Fund.

Mr Moses Seleowei, one of the participants, expressed delight at the interest of ERA/FoEN in advocating for the rights of the rural oil communities and the need to obtain their inputs to the legislative process.

Also speaking, a community leader, Chief Raphael Warder regretted that host communities, who had faced the adverse effects of oil exploration for decades were left out in the new legislation, and called for a more holistic approach.

Chief Ediwini Lambert, a traditional ruler, noted that the leadership of the region had not effectively managed the derivations and other resources that accrued to the region over time.

Mr Alagoa Morris, the Head of Field Operations at ERA/FoEN, said that the session became necessary in view of the review of the Petroleum Industry Bill, renamed the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill.

Morris said that ERA/FoEN, an environment focused rights advocacy group, was keen on getting feedback from host communities for presentation for effective advocacy on the new PIB.

Dr Tari Dadiowei, who reviewed the current provisions in the Bill, geared toward its unbundling, underscored the need to include environmental governance, community participation and security.

Dadiowei, an expert in conflict resolution, who examined the various components of the draft Bill, pointed out that the document, in its present form, did not guarantee community participation and protection of the environment.

According to him, the bill is silent on who will bears the ecological debt when the oil resources are exhausted, adding that the bill was also skewed in favour of the International Oil Companies and their profit motive.

The participants therefore resolved that the legislature should ensure that the 10 per cent Host Communities Fund, which was recommended in the previous version, should be reintroduced before its passage into law.

The participants regretted that the bill was yet to see the light of day since 2008 when efforts were first made to introduce it

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Investigate and sanction BAT appropriately – ERA/FoEN tells FG

era-url-iconToday.ng

As the British American Tobacco (BAT) celebrates another year of deadly profits on Wednesday, April 28, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) joined other anti-tobacco groups from Africa, United Kingdom and Latin America to demand government’s action to hold the corporation accountable.

Also on the heels of revelations of widespread bribery in Africa, the anti-tobacco group demanded that BAT be probed for the East African bribery scandal.

Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday organised by ERA/FoEN in Lagos, Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said, “As we speak today, British American Tobacco (BAT) is holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Milton Court Concert Hall, Silk Street, in London, where it will announce huge profits from mortgaging the lungs of underage and mostly under-informed cigarette addicts.”

Catalogue of BAT Infractions

In 2015 the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired an investigation on its Panorama, which detailed a host of bribery and espionage activities perpetrated by BAT on the African continent. In the expose a whistleblower and former staff of the company revealed a shameful bribery scam contrived and carefully implemented to thwart life-saving legislations in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Comoros Islands.

Paul Hopkins, who had worked for BAT in Kenya for 13 years described how BAT funded illegal corporate espionage and how its contractors bribed politicians and policymakers in the listed countries.

Emails Hopkins shared revealed the corporation made illegal payments running into thousands of dollars to compromise policy makers and in one case even demanded a draft copy of Burundi’s Tobacco Control Bill from its contact person in that country’s government to “accommodate.. amendments before the president signs.”

A Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) representative from Burundi, Godefroid Kamwenubusa, and a representative from the Comoros Islands, Chaibou Bedja Abdou, were alleged to have also received $3,000 while former representative from Rwanda, Bonaventure Nzeyimana, was paid $20,000. In return for the illegal payment to Kamwenubusa, a Burundian senior civil servant, BAT also wanted a draft copy of the country’s Tobacco Control Bill with an e-mail to the government official asking to “accommodate any amendments before the president signs.”

During the airing of the investigation on BBC Panorama, experts from the University of Bath’s leading Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) were available for media comment and interviews.

The report drew global condemnation on BAT with Dr. Vera Da Costa e Silva, from the WHO, saying BAT was irresponsible for using bribery to profit at the cost of people’s lives. She recommended that the corporation be investigated by the government and punished accordingly.

Undermining legislation

In April 2015 BAT Kenya Limited filed a petition at the Constitutional Court in the High Court of Kenya, Nairobi asking the court to declare the Tobacco Control Regulations which had been developed by the Kenyan Ministry of Health to facilitate the implementation of Tobacco Control Act 2007 as null and void either in its entirety or some particular sections of the regulation.

In the petition, BAT argued that the due process was not followed in the making of the regulations and that particular sections of the regulations contravened their rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights and other Articles of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that they were therefore unconstitutional.

Before the suit, the regulations had been tabled in Parliament on 5th December 2014 and gazette as is required and were to take effect on 5 June 2015.

On 4th June 2015, a day before the Tobacco Control Regulations could take effect, a Judge issued conservatory orders suspending the implementation of the regulations (at the request of BAT) until the case is heard and determined

Among others, BAT wanted a regulation limiting interaction between the tobacco industry and public officers declared unconstitutional. That section of the regulation is in consonance with Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) which recommends that Parties “Prohibit government partnership or collaboration with the tobacco industry”

In the final ruling, the court ruled among others, that, according to the documents presented to it, there were various meetings during the framing of the regulations that BAT was represented in, and consulted.

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Reports of public forums and other consultations were shared and the regulations were presented to Parliament which offered another platform for public participation through the Parliamentary process. It noted that in effect, there was sufficient public participation, hence, the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 cannot be declared null and void on the basis of lack of sufficient public participation, among others.

Blackmail                                                           

In Uganda BAT, in conjunction with other leading tobacco companies, used considerable financial clout to oppose Dr. Chris Baryomunsi’s private member’s bill in 2014 aimed at curbing smoking in Uganda.

In a letter to Baryomunsi, BAT Uganda said that it will no longer do business with the 709 farmers in his Kihihi constituency that it normally buys from because the legislation he sponsored – and a related plan to raise tobacco taxes – has rendered the arrangement “increasingly less economically viable”.

BAT aim for writing Baryomunsi was to instigate farmers against him.

Bayormunsi’s bill recommends large health warnings covering 75% of the face of cigarette packets, prohibits smoking within 100 metres of public buildings, prohibit advertising, ban point of sale display marketing, raises the smoking age from 18 to 21 and limits interaction between the government and tobacco lobby.

Tobacco farmers’ groups, obviously backed by BAT lobbyists, claim the measures will put them out of business.

Oluwafemi however said, the above findings show that the company works openly and behind the scenes to thwart the WHO-FCTC.

“We therefore stand in full solidarity with our allies across the globe demanding BAT be probed for the East African bribery scandal. The probe must go beyond East Africa.

“The findings hitherto mentioned challenge governments on the continent, and particularly the Nigerian government to wake up and take action. We will not forget in a hurry, the torturous process of getting the National Tobacco Control Bill (now Tobacco Control Act) into law just as we will not forget the tens of hurriedly-formed BAT front groups deployed to fight taxation, ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) and other life-saving provisions from getting into the final document.”

ERA/FoEN also debunked the myth that a tobacco bill with strong provisions as recommended by the WHO-FCTC will lead to job and revenue losses.

The group demand that the federal government should. beam searchlight on BAT operations in West Africa and particularly in Nigeria where the corporation is involved in so-called anti-smuggling campaign and lobby to thwart increase in taxes.

“Government agencies should investigate all tax waivers or grants that were granted to BAT by past governments.

That government investigate all past dealings between BAT and government agencies with a view to prosecute any infraction against our laws. The Nigerian government, particularly the Ministry of Health remain unintimidated as it comes up with resolutions for the effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

“We also recommend a speedy drafting of the recommendations. BAT infractions and that of Philip Morris International which is identified to have illicitly imported cigarettes into Nigeria from Senegal be investigated and sanctioned appropriately,” Oluwafemi said.

Also speaking at the briefing, Head, Media & Communication, Mr Philip Jakpor said, when the NGO visited one of the villages tobacco is planted, “the farmers said they were not meant to speak with strangers. It shows that the truth about their dealings is not known by the public.

“Action must be taken and the more there is delay, the more they are allowed to take people’s lives for granted.”

Adding, Oluwafemi said, “one issue we cannot tire talking about is the menace of tobacco which continues to claim lives at an alarming rate globally.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about six million people die annually from tobacco –induced illnesses and what we know as second hand smoke is responsible for over 600,000 yearly deaths in non-smokers.

“Increasing deaths from tobacco correspond with huge profits the tobacco corporation make from marketing their deadly ware,” Oluwafemi said.

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Group uncovers Philip Morris’ alleged plan to import N156bn cigarettes

era-url-iconToday.ng

Despite the alarm raised recently by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth International (ERA/FoEN) of the flooding of Nigeria with “unlicenced, tax-not-paid” cigarettes and the deliberate violation of the National Tobacco Control Act, American firm, Philip Morris International (PMINTL), has again made moves to import 550 million cigarette units, worth about N165 million into the country.

During President Goodluck Jonathan administration, Philip Morris International, one of the world’s biggest tobacco manufacturing companies, had secured approval to import 122 million ‘units’ of cigarettes into Nigeria from September 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016.

PMINTL Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of American global cigarette and tobacco company, was registered in Nigeria on December 11, 2014.

Five months later, the company got the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) certificate for five PMI brands – Marlboro Gold, Marlboro, Chesterfield Blue, Chesterfield Mint Burst, and Bond Street Blue.

Philip Morris International, through Philip Morris Manufacturing Senegal Sarl, applied for and got approval of the country’s Ministry of Industry and Mines in July 2015 to benefit from the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme for the five cigarette brands.

Having imported, cleared and sold its first shipments of cigarettes (122 million units), PMINTL has again applied for further import approval to bring another 550 million cigarette units into the country.

In a letter to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, titled: ‘Application for importation of Marlboro, Marlboro Gold, Bond Street, Bond Street Blue, Chesterfield Mint Burst and Chesterfield Blue cigarettes under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme,’ the company urged the federal government to allow it import 550 million cigarette units into Nigeria.

Part of the letter read: “We appreciate the opportunity to share our long term commitment with Nigeria and our investment plans with you and look forward to our future in Nigeria. We would like to follow up with you on an issue of critical importance to our ability to move forward with this long term commitment.

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“On September 18, 2015, the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) granted PMINTL Nigeria Limited (PM Nigeria) approval for the import of 122 million cigarettes from Senegal under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (Harmonised System Code 24.02) (ETLS). We have already imported and cleared these products into Nigeria in line with our sales projections. In January 2016, we applied for further import approval to the BOF, now for 550 million cigarette units.”

Findings also revealed that the company had not obtained authorisation from the Ministry of Health to conduct tobacco business in Nigeria as required by law, a position the company admitted in the letter.

According to the company, “The BOF denied our application for such import. We understand the BOF has taken the position that our application will be granted only after we obtain authorisation from the Ministry of Health to conduct tobacco business in Nigeria. We believe that this requirement is not applicable.”

But Section 29(1) of the National Tobacco Control bill signed into law last May says: No person shall manufacture, import or distribute tobacco or tobacco products except the person has obtained licence or is authorised in writing by the minister.

The law stipulates a fine of “not less than N10 million and a term of imprisonment of not more than 10 years or both” among others for defaulters.

PMINTL however denied that it has violated Nigerian law.

In a statement, the company said it plays by the rules in all the over 180 countries it operates.

“In every market where we do business, we operate in accordance with national laws and regulations, including in Nigeria,” Vera Nwanze, General Manager, PMINTL Nigeria Limited, said.

Nwanze added: “PMINTL Nigeria Limited is an affiliate company of PMI and has been an established legal entity for a year in compliance with all statutory requirements of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and meeting all legal requirements for product’s registration and importation including the payments of all relevant taxes to the concerned authorities.”

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Fed Govt’s suit against Shell for Bonga spill commendable, says ERA

era-url-iconThe Nation Online

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has commended the federal government for dragging Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, claiming N1.3 trillion against the oil firm for the December 20, 2011, Bonga oil spills.

The spill which caused massive pollution in coastal communities in Delta and Bayelsa states occurred in Shell’s Bonga Field located about 120 kilometres off the Nigerian coastline.   The project itself was linked to a scam involving Vetco International Limited whose officials were discovered to have paid $2.1 million bribe to Nigerian officials to undercut customs regulations, following which a US court fined Vetco International $26 million fine for violating the U.S Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The bribes were paid between September 2002 and April 2005 when Vetco International was providing engineering and procurement services and subsea construction equipment for the Bonga project

The suit is protecting the interest of fishermen and persons, numbering about 285,000 from 350 communities and satellite villages, affected by the crude oil spillage. The government is demanding N884 billion as compensation for the impacted communities and another N495 billion as restitution and restoration of the devastation of the economic zone of the Nigeria’s territorial waters. It is also asking for N50 million as cost of the legal action.

Co-defendants in suit are Shell Petroleum N.V, B.V Netherlands International Indusrie-E Handel Maatschappij, Shell Transport and Trading Company Plc, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, who are all allied companies of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company. In an affidavit sworn to by a Deputy Director, Oil Field Assessment Department of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Mr. Akindele Olubunmi in the suit, counsel to the plaintiffs, Awosika Adekunle, averred that he had the consent and the authority of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. A. Mallam (SAN), Attorney General of the Federation and Director General of NOSDRA, to depose to this affidavit.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “This is cheery news no doubt. The days of impunity by Shell in Nigeria is nearing its end. The Nigerian government has by this decision taken a giant leap in siding with the people against a corporate bully. It is commendable”

Ojo explained that it was however sad that the road to justice for the impacted communities is only coming now, more than five years after their lives and livelihoods were rudely obfuscated even as he noted that justice cannot be denied ultimately.

“The Buhari administration has shown the way. If British Petroleum (BP) was made to pay for the Gulf of Mexico spill in …why Should Shell not pay double for its shameful impunity all these years? Nigeria’s sovereignty over oil companies cannot be compromised. Corporate capture of the state and resources has led to untold hardships for the local fishermen who were stopped from fishing while the spill wreaked havoc on marine life and fishing in the Nigeria’s coastal communities”.

“ERA/FoEN pledges to support the case and provide technical support that will ensure justice is done. We want to add that however that while environmental remediation is important, compensation for the impoverished fisher men and women was not mentioned in the suit and this should immediately be a part of the suit. The time of Shell’s impunity is over”, Ojo insisted.

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ERA/FoEN demands that fossil fuel industry be shut out of climate talks

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Today, environmental groups rallied to demand Nigerian delegates to the UN climate treaty take decisive action to address the corrosive influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy.

The action is part of a global series of actions calling for governments to launch a global investigation into industry interference at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) – a leading group in the Kick Big Polluters campaign has demanded that Nigerian delegates to the talks lend their voices to calls for the fossil fuels industry to be shut out of the talks.

ERA/FoEN is part of the Break Free from Fossil Fuels Coalition which commenced actions in Nigeria yesterday (10th May 2016), with a rally at Oil Well 1, Nigeria’s first oil well drilled in 1956.

The gathering yesterday had hundreds of community chiefs, youths, women groups, and civil society groups

“Thanks to interference from big polluters, the Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change here in Nigeria said Godwin Ojo, executive director of ERA/FoEN “We, the people, urge our government leaders to take action in Bonn to eliminate the primary obstacle to more ambitious and aggressive action by showing big polluters the door.”

Across all the geo-political zones of Nigeria climate change is dislocating communities and ruining livelihoods.

From the north where the desert continues its downward march, to the south west where coastal erosion is swallowing coastal communities to the east where gulley erosion is assuming frightening dimensions, the impact is real.

Oil extraction and gas flares in the Niger Delta, aside polluting surrounding communities, are excercebating the climate chaos.

On May 16, delegates to the UNFCCC will convene in Bonn, Germany for the first time since the Paris Agreement was gaveled through last December.

While the agreement has been applauded as an historic accomplishment, many have criticized it for not being ambitious enough to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

“The Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough. In fact, without more ambitious action now, we will be on a path that far exceeds the temperature threshold that would prevent the worst effects of climate change,” said Patti Lynn of Corporate Accountability International, “To ensure governments can take action far beyond the Paris Agreement, we must first ensure that those that wish to undermine progress–polluting industries like Big Oil, Coal, and Gas—are out of the room.”

From aggressive lobbying at the regional level to financial sponsorship of international meetings, the industry interferes at all levels.

Industry cooptation of treaty meetings has been a growing problem and a primary obstacle to progress.

At the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Warsaw, corporate entities with a direct conflict of interest in the treaty’s successnot only sponsored the talks, they were given preferential access to delegates.

And, at COP21 in Paris, industry interference was a central concern. The meetings, dubbed the “Corporate COP,” were financially sponsored by dozens of corporations with massive carbon footprints and track records of undermining sound climate policy.

Inside the meetings, special areas were created for corporations and everything from charging stations to water fountains were branded.

Today’s events are part of a rapidly growing movement of people demanding that big polluters are removed from the climate policymaking process.

To date more than 570,000 people have joined the call, which was launch in May of 2

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Group Raises Alarm Over Underwater Gas Leakage From Agip Oil Field In Bayelsa

era-url-iconSahara Reporters

On Monday, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) raised an alarm over an underwater gas leak from an oil field being operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Kalaba, Bayelsa State.

On Monday, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) raised an alarm over an underwater gas leak from an oil field being operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Kalaba, Bayelsa State.

Morris Alagoa, the Head of Field Operations at ERA/FoEN, raised the alarm in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa. Mr. Alagoa explained that  the gas leakage was coming from an underwater gas pipeline beneath Taylor Creek at Kalaba community, Okordia Clan in Yenagoa Local Government Area (LGA).

ERA/FoEN said the Paramount Ruler of Kalaba Community also confirmed the incident, saying it was brought to their attention in the early hours of Saturday.

He pointed out that the gas was leaking at a high pressure, causing giant bubbles in Taylor Creek which serves as the sole source of water to the communities.

“I first learned about it when some children were shouting that oil was bubbling and that there was a leakage.

“As a trained field monitor I also came around to see what was happening in the environment; whether what I heard was true.

“When I pulled down here by canoe, I discovered that it was true, gas was actually bubbling,”  the Paramount Ruler said.

Expressing concern about the pollution of the water, which in addition to drinking purposes is also the only source for domestic activities, he said that he promptly informed ERA.  He did so because the ERA is the organization that assists the community in reaching out to Agip during such incidents.

ERA/FoEN advised Agip to go to the site immediately in order to shutdown the source of the gas leak.  This action would forestall further pollution of the environment and exposure of residents to associated toxic gas.

They also urged the management of Agip to convene a Joint Investigation Visit to unravel the cause of the leak.

Efforts to get a reaction from NAOC officials were unsuccessful. Requests for comment sent to the oil firm’s Media Relations Manager, Mr. Cotalini Fillipo, had yet to be answered at the time of this report

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