On 15 December 2017, Egbema Voice of Freedom (EVF), an association of residents of Aggah Community in Rivers State, Nigeria, filed a complaint to the Italian and Dutch NCPs regarding Eni S.p.A. and its Dutch subsidiary Eni International BV. The complainants were supported by public interest law firm Chima Williams & Associates (CWA) and NGOs Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
The Aggah Community is adjacent to and overlaps with the Mgbede oil field, which is operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Eni S.p.A and its Dutch subsidiary. For over four decades, Eni has been causing annual flooding in the Aggah village as a result of the elevated roadways and embankments it built to drill for oil. The barriers block the natural streams that used to flow through the village and flood both residential areas and farmland. Based on an impact assessment report carried out by the complaints, nearly all households in Aggah have lost agricultural products, while more than 65% have suffered physical injuries from the flooding.
The complainants assert the flooding has devastated people’s health, property and livelihoods and represents a violation of the OECD Guidelines. They seek mediation from the Italian and Dutch NCPs to encourage Eni to stop the flooding and compensate and assist Aggah residents whose rights have been violated.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
The Italian NCP accepted the complaint on 26 July 2018 and opened a mediation procedure between the parties in the presence of a third-party Conciliator. This process led to an agreement between the parties which was accepted on 8 July 2019. This agreement was made public on 2 October 2019. The terms of the settlement provide for the urgent construction of new culverts/drainage channels and maintenance and management of the existing channels to avoid flooding. It also calls for the impact of those measures to be verified in the presence of a technical expert, to determine whether further action should be taken. NAOC’s surveyors have already entered the community to determine the commencement of any new construction.
In a press release issued after the announcement of the agreement, an advocate of the complainants said,“The community had been asking NAOC, ENI’s Nigerian subsidiary, to fix the flooding problem for years, but to no avail. The game changed when we went to Italy on the basis of the OECD Guidelines, which apply to all Italian companies, and asked ENI to take responsibility for what was happening on the ground in Aggah.” A leader of the complainants said, “We are celebrating this news in Aggah. The agreement is an achievement that follows years of battle to get ENI and its subsidiary NAOC to act to resolve the flooding they have created. We remain however vigilant on how the company and its Nigerian subsidiary will implement the agreement.”
Since the announcement of the agreement, Eni has conducted engineering surveys to design a new drainage system through Aggah, but work is suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. Representatives of the complainants continue to monitor the implementation of the agreement and insist on a transparent and inclusive process to ensure that a sustainable solution to the flooding is found.