Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and environmental stakeholders have advocated for a climate change friendly government that will adopt litigation as an option to addressing emerging issues that have severe implications for the environment and the people’s livelihood in the Niger Delta region.

The advocacy, made by participants at a round-table dialogue on climate litigation organized by Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a non governmental organization, in Benin City in partnership with the People AGM, stressed on the need for environmental awareness by everyone.

The stakeholders among others seek for compensation for affected communities and ecosystems due to climate related harm caused by oil spills, deforestation and pollution as well as advocating for robust environmental policies, stricter regulations and effective enforcement mechanisms to prevent further damage, and seeking to empower local communities to actively participate in legal processes, ensuring their voices are heard and their rights protected.

The Edo State Commissioner, Ministry of Environment and Sustainability, Arc. Joshua Omokhodion, who declared the one-day event on climate litigation open, said climate change is the greatest environmental challenge the world faces today and scientific consensus and growing political will to address the issue are slowly but surely changing the global context in which businesses operate.

According to the Commissioner, who was represented by the Director, Climate Change, Mr. Kenneth Woghiren, climate litigation means legal action that aims to combat climate change and involves arguments that are related to climate change.

In his words, “Climate litigation has brought new clues redirecting the mode of fighting climate change in our world today. Climate related judicial cases are now common today with international, national, regional, tribunals and quasi-judicial courts as well as arbitration or special mediation bodies playing prominent roles in resolving climate related cases or disputes, which further drives climate change governance reforms in various countries across the world.

“Climate change litigation has brought judges, lawyers, advocates, policy makers, researchers, environmental defenders, climate activists, human rights activists, especially women’s rights, NGOs, CSOs and the business community into understanding the current state of our climate through witnessing, participating and handling climate litigation cases.

“It further shows that environmental laws used in combating climate change, loss of biodiversity and the pollution of our land space have gone a long way in protecting and sustaining our environment.”

The Commissioner noted that as the heart beat state of Nigeria, Edo State will continue to be accountable to promises made, saying, “We will count on the support of everyone present here today as well as all relevant stakeholders to support the implementation of these climate litigation dialogue outcomes.”

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The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, acting Executive Director, Leo Atakpu, disclosed that ANEEJ is currently working with some climate justice activists under the umbrella of the Peoples AGM to further the work on climate change and the environment.

“Particularly, we are interested in advancing the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement by encouraging oil companies and their investors to adopt the call for carbon emission reduction targeting 1.5C and below, and fossil fuel phase out with a just energy transition projection to protect the natural environment from pollution and over exploitation.

“Despite the urgent need for the world to quickly move away from fossil fuel or at least drastically reduce carbon emission to meet the 1.5C target set in Paris and save the planet from destruction, oil and gas companies have failed to provide realistic plans that will ensure global comfort,” he noted.

According to him, “Major oil companies have abandoned initial climate commitments for short term profit because of increased global demands for crude oil. In 2023 the church of England pensions Board, a major investor in Shell and other oil companies announced that they were withdrawing their funds from Shell and other companies because such companies have abandoned their climate commitments for profits.”

After a paper presentation on Climate Litigation by Dr. Eghosa Ekhator, senior lecturer in Law at the University of Derby, United Kingdom, it was resolved that there is a need for CSOs and the stakeholders to put pressure on the government to do things right through good governance.

There is also the need for environmental awareness and building of partnerships, both at the international, national and local levels. And the need for the CSOs through collaboration to always hold multinationals and the government accountable for their actions, irrespective of the challenges encountered.

The voice of the victims who are the communities impacted by the activities of the multinationals in the Niger Delta must be amplified despite the difficult situation the CSOs find themselves in.

The founder, ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolo in his remarks pointed out that the level of mistrust in the Niger Delta is huge and due to lack of resources the CSOs are handicapped in achieving success in climate litigation.