A number of communities from across the Niger Delta, have filed a legal action, against the Nigerian government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Total and Agip joint venture companies in order to bring a stop to the practice of gas flaring.Lodged in the Federal High Court of Nigeria in Benin City, the action is supported by the Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA), an organisation "dedicated to the defence of human ecosystems in terms of human rights, and to the promotion of environmentally responsible governmental, commercial, community and individual practice in Nigeria through the empowerment of local people".
The mixture of toxic substances which has been emitted in the flares for over 40 years, includes benzene and particulates, and is alleged to have exposed Niger Delta communities to severe health risks and property damage in violation of their human rights, in particular the fundamental right to life and to dignity guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution, as well as well as rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.
While flaring has been prohibited under environmental regulations since 1984, unless a ministerial consent has been lawfully issued and conditions are complied with, this practice is alleged to have continued unlawfully, affect the livelihood of local communities and exposing them to an increased risk of premature deaths, child respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer, as well as acid rain.
According to gas industry statistics, more gas is flared in Nigeria than anywhere in the world, with figures greater than both Iran and Indonesia.
Despite requests by ERA, no consents or conditions permitting the practice of gas flaring have been disclosed by any of the companies against which the action is now being taken.
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