abusesaffiliationarrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upattack-typeburgerchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upClock iconclosedeletedevelopment-povertydiscriminationdollardownloademailenvironmentexternal-linkfacebookfiltergenderglobegroupshealthC4067174-3DD9-4B9E-AD64-284FDAAE6338@1xinformation-outlineinformationinstagraminvestment-trade-globalisationissueslabourlanguagesShapeCombined Shapeline, chart, up, arrow, graphLinkedInlocationmap-pinminusnewsorganisationotheroverviewpluspreviewArtboard 185profilerefreshIconnewssearchsecurityPathStock downStock steadyStock uptagticktooltiptwitteruniversalityweb

30 Nov 2005

Lawsuit against Shell and NNPC (re gas flaring, Nigeria)

Status: CLOSED

Date lawsuit was filed
30 Nov 2005
Location of Filing: Nigeria
Location of Incident: Nigeria
Type of Litigation: Domestic



Snapshot: In 2005, local communities from the Niger Delta filed lawsuits in Nigeria against the Nigerian Government and oil companies - Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Total, and local subsidiaries of Shell, Chevron and Agip, alleging that the companies' continued practice of gas flaring (burning off natural gas in oil production) caused environmental damages and violated their right to life and human dignity. The lawsuits adopted different strategies. This case profile looks at a lawsuit filed against Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria (SPDC) and Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) in Nigerian federal court.

Gas flaring (the practice of burning off natural gas associated with oil production) has been illegal in Nigeria since 1984.  Companies may only flare if they have ministerial consent.  The Nigerian Government has imposed a number of deadlines for phasing out the practice, none of which have been met.

On 30 November 2005, Jonah Gbemre (representing the Iwherekan community) brought a claim against Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria (SPDC) and NNPC in the Benin Judicial Division of the Federal Court of Nigeria.  The plaintiff alleges that gas flaring violates the right to life and human dignity guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and the African Charter.  The plaintiff further claims that gas flaring negatively impacts human health, the environment, food, water and housing.  The defendants filed several applications delaying the proceedings.  On 14 November 2005, the court issued a judgment confirming that gas flaring violates the right to life and dignity of person.  The court ordered the defendants to take immediate steps to stop gas flaring in the community.  The defendants appealed the judgment. On 16 December 2006, contempt of court proceedings were filed against SPDC and NNPC.  Shell held that it was not in contempt of court as it had several outstanding appeals in the case.  On 11 April 2006, the Court ordered SPDC and NNPC to end flaring by April 2007 and ordered the managing director of SPDC and NNPC as well as government officials to appear in court on 31 May 2006 to present a programme for stopping gas flaring in the community.  The plaintiffs’ legal counsel reported that on 31 May 2006, the judge in the case had been removed from the court in Benin and the file of the case could not be located.

In December 2021, SPDC filed an appeal challenging the judgment of the Federal High Court which ordered the company to stop the flaring of gas in the Iwhrekan community in Delta State. The company is asking the appellate court to determine if the lower court judge had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit while also arguing that evidence relied upon for Iwhrekan community did not scientifically prove the judgment by the trial judge.

-"Shell appeals judgment stopping gas flaring", Asaba Osayande, The Guardian, 29 Dec 2021

- “Nigeria: Gas Flare – Oil Majors in Race to Beat 2012 Deadline”, Adeola Yusuf, Daily Independent [Nigeria], 24 May 2010
- “Nigeria’s gas profits ‘up in smoke’”, Andrew Walker, BBC News, 13 Jan 2009
- “Nigerian Court Gives Shell One Year to Stop Gas Flaring”, Environmental News Service, 11 Apr 2006
- “Judge Orders Gas Flaring to Stop Immediately”, Jim Lobe, IPS News, 14 Nov 2005
- “Shell faces flaring lawsuit”, Terry Macalister, Guardian [UK], 31 Jun 2005
- “Contempt case for Shell over gas”, BBC, 24 Dec 2005

- Shell: Flaring in Nigeria
- Nigerian National Petroleum Company: Gas Production
- Environmental Rights Action: ERA/FoEN urges Shell to respect court order on gas flaring, 2 May 2007 [contains timeline of legal proceedings]
- Friends of the Earth: Shell ordered to appear by Nigerian Court, 11 Apr 2006

Jonah Gbemre representing the Iwherekan Community v. Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation et al., Federal High Court of Nigeria in the Benin Judicial Division
- [PDF] Court Order requiring corporate defendants to refrain from further gas flaring, 15 Nov 2005
- [PDF] Judgment of Benin High Court, 14 Nov 2005
- [DOC] Plaintiff’s complaint for declaration of the right to life, in relation to gas flaring, 11 Jul 2005