Data source
Date of text
27 May 2002
Seat of court
Original language


Type of text
Reference number
Court name
African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights
Human rights, oil pollution

There was a Communication to the African Commission of Human & Peoples’ Rights alleging that the military government of Nigeria had been directly involved in oil production through the State oil company, in a consortium with Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, and that these operations had caused environmental degradation and health problems resulting from the contamination of the environment among the Ogoni People living in the area. The Complainants alleged that the Nigerian government had violated the right to health and the right to clean environment as recognized under the African Charter. The government had directly participated in the contamination of air, water and soil and thereby harmed the health of the Ogoni population, had failed to protect the Ogoni population from the harm caused by the Shell Consortium but had instead used its security forces to facilitate the damage and failed to provide studies of environmental and health risks caused by the oil operations.
The Commission noted that the right to a healthy environment, as guaranteed under Article 24 of the African Charter, imposed clear obligations upon a government. Undoubtedly, the government of Nigeria had the right to produce oil. But the care that should have been taken and which would have protected the rights of the victims of the violations complained of was not taken. To exacerbate the situation, the security forces of the government engaged in conduct in violation of the rights of the Ogonis by attacking, burning and destroying several Ogoni villages and homes.
Among others, the Nigerian Government had given the green light to the oil Companies to devastatingly affect the well-being of the Ogonis. Its practice was in violation of the African Charter. The government’s treatment of the Ogonis had also violated all three minimum duties of the right to food. The government had destroyed food sources through its security forces and State Oil Company; had allowed private oil companies to destroy food sources; and, through terror, had created significant obstacles to Ogoni communities trying to feed themselves.
In conclusion, the commission found the Federal Republic of Nigeria in violation of Articles 2, 4, 14, 16, 18(1), 21 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It appealed to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ensure protection of the environment, health and livelihood of the people of Ogoniland, to ensure that appropriate environmental and social impact assessments were prepared for any future oil development, that the safe operation of any further oil development was guaranteed, and to provide information on health and environmental risks to communities likely to be affected by oil operations.