Communities sue Nigerian Breweries over environmental pollution

The Ogbor Ancient Kingdom and Eziama Amahia Autonomous Community, both of Aba North local government area in Abia state, have sued the Nigerian Breweries over alleged environmental pollution.

The Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, in a statement signed the Executive Director, Nelson Nwafor on Wednesday said the communities accuse the brewery plant in Aba, of “evacuation of toxic waste to Aba river” known as “Mmiri Iyiaza Ogbor” or popularly “Waterside”, in Aba common palance.

According to Nwafor, though Nigerian Breweries denied the allegation, it had not provided proof to show its innocence.

Read the statement below:

As an environmental rights advocacy , after impact assessment, FENRAD took up this matter to ensure that environmental justice is administered.

To this end, letters and correspondences were exchanged between the rights and the brewery plant. In one of the preliminary letters from the rights to the plant dated March 11, 2016, the called for mitigation and remediation of the environmental disaster created the plant’ industrial activities.

In response, the brewery management in a letter dated March 16, 2016 dismissed as “embarassing” FENRAD’ even as it “unequivocally denied same” and yet promised to “investigate” it has, without any forethought, denied initially. This shows inconsistency, markedly. 

As a pro-poor and pro-people , FENRAD threatened to sue the brewery plant whereupon the management, out of retraction but without contrition, in its letter dated March 30, 2016 claimed acknowledgement of a report about a broken effluent pipe on Saturday, 13 February, 2016 (being one month before FENRAD’ preliminary letters seeking mitigation and threatening to sue), and that it (the brewery) was working to fix the damage.

The brewery plant claimed that the damage was done a 3rd party [sic] being a contractor named Messrs. Chikwe Technical Nigeria Limited working for Abia state government. In all the claims made the brewery plant, there is clear lack of coherence and consistency, even lethargy.

Evident enough is the fact that the brewery management got notice of an impaired effluent pipe by February of 2016 and did nothing to address same until a month later as seen in its letter of March 30, 2016 as earlier cited.

FENRAD wishes, therefore, to apprise the public that for the days preceding its threat of litigation, no impact assessment was carried out by the brewery management on the river and this is environmental indiscipline. 

The two communities in concert issued power of attorney to FENRAD to join the suit in their consent letters and resolution dated January 3, 2018 with the elders and traditional rulers of both communities as the undersigns.

The truth is that FENRAD has analysed the chemical constituents of the waste water channeled to the river through electronically generated sources i.e, internet and other laboratory analysis done in some cases by laboratories outside Nigeria.

Some of the harmful substances used by the brewery plant include ethylene glycol, sodium hydroxide, sulphuric acid, hydroxilamine hydrochloride among others. These chemicals are hazardous with high environmental risk and have equally caused serious disasters to lives of human and aquatic beings in the said communities.

It is noteworthy to mention here also that heretofore the communities depend on the fish and other seafoods from the polluted river for food and economic subsistence and have now no other source of these due to this unfriendly environmental act of the brewery plant. 

FENRAD wishes to remind Nigeria Brewery Plc. Aba that it has not behaved nor conducted itself as a legal let alone a corporate citizen socially and environmentally responsible.

Again, it is behooveful that the brewery management is made aware that this act is inconsistent with the legal framework of international environmental treaties, protocols and pacts to which Nigerian state is a signatory; also against Nigerian National Water Policy of 2004 and the global initiative of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Consequent upon this, community members now suffer some bodily harm like itching, irritation and skin rashes even as the impact of this toxic evacuation has caused a crater-sized gully on the geographical landscape of the area. Also, economic activities like fishing is impaired as is drinking and domestic consumption of water has become huge problem to the affected communities. 

The environment is a common good and once abused humanity collectively bears the cost. As a group incorporated law and one seeking to achieve and actualise environmental justice and biodiversity, FENRAD deems it necessary to bring to the notice of the public this unwholesome act perpetrated by the brewery plant. This is inhuman, deplorable and must condemned in its entirety. 

We urge the court to, in dispensation of justice, take recourse to immediate international and domestic laws in which error Brewery is. 

Nigeria is a signatory to a lot of treaties on environment. She became by 1992, a member on Unites Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; she’s a party to Kyoto Protocol; she’s a member of CoP Conference of Parties in Paris by 2015; again, this act as perpetrated by the Brewery is totally against The United Nations Environmental Programme’s guidelines and rules.  

On the domestic angle, the activity of the brewery plant contravenes in part and whole the following:

• Nigerian National Water Policy of 2004

•Federal Environmental Protection Agency Act of 1988 which incorporates the National Environmental Protection (Effleunet Limitation) Regulation.

•Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act of 1992 section 2 of which prohibits carrying out projects without recourse to the impact of such undertaking to the environment. 

•The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended section 20 of which mandated the Nigerian state right to preserve aquatic and wildlife as well as natural resources example of which is water. 

• National Environmental Protection (Management of Solid and Hazardous Wastes) Regulation. 

• Harmful Wastes Act of 1988 and so many others. 

We Implore the Court to give Justice to the Communities

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