President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has been dragged to the ECOWAS Court of Justice over illegal pipelines and oil theft.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a statement on Sunday said it filed a lawsuit against the current administration over “the failure to probe the operations of illegal oil pipelines between 2001 and 2022, to name and prosecute those suspected to be involved, and to recover proceeds of crime.”
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said the suit was filed by the group, Chief Eric Dooh, (who is suing for himself as a leader of the Goi Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, and on behalf of the Goi Community), and 15 other concerned Nigerians.
The suit followed recent reports of the discovery of at least 58 illegal oil pipelines used to steal the country’s oil wealth. The theft is reportedly carried out through the illicit pipeline connected to the trunk line via an abandoned pipeline, and linked to a location in the high sea, where they load crude oil into vessels and sell it overseas.
In the Suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/53/22 filed last Friday before the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, the Plaintiffs are seeking “an order directing and compelling the Buhari government to immediately probe the reports of operations of illegal pipelines and oil theft, name and prosecute suspected perpetrators.”
The Plaintiffs are also seeking “an order directing and compelling the Buhari government to fully recover any proceeds of crime, and to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of the people of Niger Delta that have continued to suffer the effects of oil theft by non-state actors.”
In the suit, the Plaintiffs say, “The Buhari government is failing to uphold its international legal obligations to ensure that the country’s oil wealth is used solely for the benefit of Nigerians, and that the wealth does not end up in private pockets.
“Poor and socio-economically vulnerable Nigerians have continued to pay the price for the stealing of the country’s oil wealth apparently by both state and non-state actors.”
According to the Plaintiffs, despite the country’s substantial oil wealth, successive governments have largely squandered the opportunity to use the wealth to improve the lives and well-being of ordinary Nigerians.
The Plaintiffs are also arguing that “the illegal pipelines have been operated for many years without notice, implying a flagrant violation of international human rights obligations to ensure the proper, effective and efficient management of the country’s wealth and natural resources.”