Environmental Law

Oluwatoyin Adejonwo-Osho*

Abstract The right to life, a first generation right is well established in international law and existing international instruments. This right has made a definite contribution to environmental protection globally. There have been several instances in the recent past where the right to life has been successfully invoked in the pursuit of environmental claims and protection in different jurisdictions around the world. It is worthy of note that environmental protection was not prevalent at the time first generation rights were first formulated. The courts in some jurisdictions have explicitly recognised the links between human rights and environmental protection and have incorporated the latter into the monitoring and enforcement of the right to life. This paper examines the evolution of this trend in Nigerian case law. It examines selected environmental laws in Nigeria and how the judiciary has interpreted the laws for the protection of the environment, focusing on gas flaring related cases. The paper traces the evolution of the various cases on gas flaring in Nigeria and the gradual shift in attitude of the Nigerian Judiciary from placing higher priority on the profits from crude oil exploration over environmental protection to human rights approaches to environmental protection. This change in attitude has culminated in the recent case of Gbemre V. Shell (2005). Ultimately, the paper seeks to answer the question ‘what has changed in Nigeria despite the fact that the laws have not changed on environmental protection and gas flaring in Nigeria’? To answer this question the paper would explore the change in the approach of the judiciary as evidenced by case law and potential drivers of that change. This paper concludes that despite the fact that the environmental laws have not changed there is an increased awareness and a readiness in the judiciary to invoke...