With just days to the end of the year, 63 year old Mrs. Agnes Umoh looked forward to celebrating the yuletide period with her loved ones. It was not to be as she met with gruesome death along the water ways of Festac Town. On the 2nd of December, 2006 Mrs. Uboh was ferrying back from her farmland located across the Festac Canal when a fire explosion occurred within the canal. Mrs. Uboh met her untimely death as a result of severe burn injuries sustained from this pipeline fire incident.
Investigations revealed that the explosion occurred as a result of prolonged petroleum product leakages into the canal from busted NNPCpipelines. It was further established that this was due to failure by NNPC to adequately secure and maintain the petroleum pipelines traversing the carnal.
In 2007, Access to Justice, on behalf of Mrs. Uboh’s family, filed a civil suit claiming damages against NNPC for its failures to adequately secure and maintain petroleum pipelines traversing public waterways; repair burst pipelines promptly; and clean-up the areas affected by petroleum spillages.
In defence to the suit, NNPC alleged that it maintained best international safety standards in protecting against leakages of their pipelines and that the fire incident was a result of sabotage of their pipelines by third parties.
After five years in court, the trial judge, Justice C. E. Archibong (now retired) in delivering judgment, held that NNPC had a duty of care to members of the public to clean up the environment affected by the spillage from its pipelines after they have occurred. In his words: “It would be unconscionable to hold that a corporation or company moving hazardous material in pipelines, vehicle or any form of conveyance had no duty of care to engage in an adequate clean up after the escape of that hazardous material from the enclosures or confines of the means of its conveyance, whether the escape was due to an act of sabotage or not. That would be a clearly unconstitutional provision infringing on the public’s right to life and dignity of person - And I so hold.
The Defendant (NNPC)failed in its duty of care to the deceased and the public at large in the Festac Canal Area and beyond.” The Federal High Court awarded over Ten Million Naira damages to the Uboh’s family. This is one more case with which Access to Justice fulfilled its mission to provide legal services to Nigerians regardless of their socio-economic background.
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