BY JONAH NWOKPOKU
The United Nations Human Rights Council sitting in Geneva, has passed a resolution to hold transnational companies, especially in the oil and gas sector, accountable for environmental and human rights abuses in Nigeria, and anywhere in the world that they operate.
The Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Dr. Godwin Ojo, disclosed this at a press briefing in Lagos.
Ojo said the Human Rights Council overwhelmingly voted against Transnational Corporations’ TNC voluntary mechanisms and instead voted for an International legally binding mechanism to regulate the activities of TNCs relating to the protection of human rights.
The victory, Ojo noted, marks another watershed in the struggle for environmental justice since environmental rights are human rights.
The resolution, according to him, was jointly sponsored by Ecuador and South Africa, and is the result of pressure by communities, local and international NGOs and social movements across the world demanding change to save people and the environment.
He said, “ERA/FoEN and its allies including Friends of the Earth International, Oilwatch and Host Communities Network, have been in the forefront of these struggles. Although there were many black legs within the UN system to scuttle the voting, the majority countries including Nigeria carried the day and the sense of corporate capture of the UN was jolted. The resolution for a uniform legally binding instrument was supported by over 610 organisations, 400 individuals, and 95 countries while 13 states abstained.”
Chair of Friends of the Earth International, Jagoda Munic, reacting to the resolution said: “This is indeed a significant and historic victory; a much needed resolution for those who defend the environment, human rights and sustainable livelihoods from the violations of big business. It shows movement building can really change the power balance and expose US and EU commitments to the corporate agenda. “In a nutshell, this victory means expanding access to justice, right to protest and protection of environmental defenders, reparation and remediation of damaged environment and livelihoods, and criminal liability for corporate offenders.”
Speaking on the implications of the resolutions, Ojo said: “This monumental victory comes with mixed reactions. First, it means that the decades of mobilising and resistance by local, national and international Civil Society Organisations working to ensure environmental and social justice were never in vain. Its shows that people’s power is significant.
“Second, a uniform binding mechanism will ensure that environmental racism as practiced by TNCs, Shell and other oil companies in Nigeria will come to an end because the same standards deployed in Europe and America, will be the same standards to be applied in Nigeria and elsewhere.
“Thirdly, it would halt corporate impunity that is undermining national governments and institutions such as Nigeria. Here, the disdain of Shell against national oversight agencies such as NOSDRA and NIMASA, will likely come to an end.