Port Harcourt — Aggrieved members of the Aggah community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, have dragged Italian energy giant, Eni S.p.A., and its subsidiary, Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd. to court in Italy, over continuous flooding that has damaged the people’s lives and property for decades.
According to the community, Eni’s NAOC had blocked the natural course of streams that flowed through Aggah community and its environs since the 1970s by erecting 40,000 ft2 earthen embankments at three locations near the community to support its oil wellheads and also constructed raised access roads to connect them.
Legal Director, Advocates for Community Alternatives, Lalla Touré, explained that since adequate measures were not put in place to channel the water, farmlands and residential areas in Aggah community are flooded during every rainy season; a situation which the community and the Rivers State Government had on several occasions sued NAOC, but to no avail.
The community had in 2017 filed a complaint with Italian and Dutch National Contact Points for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which are charged with helping to resolve disputes between companies and the people affected by their operations, arising from the failure to respect social and environmental standards.
In 2019, the parties reached a settlement, Eni/NAOC agreed to build “new culverts and drainages” and to work with the complainants to take any further necessary steps to end the annual flooding; a poorly executed job was done which did not stop the destructive flooding in Aggah.
Having reached an impasse in its negotiations with Eni/NAOC, the complainants represented by Studio Legale Dini-Saltalamacchia, have filed a fresh lawsuit at the Tribunal of Milan in Italy, asking the court to enforce the settlement agreement with Eni by requiring Eni and NAOC to take all necessary steps to lift the floods in Aggah.
Touré in a statement said the community members are also seeking damages for the loss of lives, livelihoods and properties over the years due to Eni’s floods.
“This suit that has just been filed in Milan court in Italy would give hope to victims of human rights violations everywhere, especially in West Africa. We’re counting on the Italian legal system to help ensure that the fundamental human rights of Aggah community members are upheld.”
Advocates for Community Alternatives, ACA helps West African communities that are threatened by the destructive impacts of extractives-led development to take control of their futures. ACA works directly with communities to design their sustainable development plans and advocate to achieve those plans, and it builds and supports networks of lawyers and other professionals that will serve communities in need.