Nigerian activist and lawyer, Chima Williams, has been named as one of the Earth’s foremost defenders.
The Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) was named among the seven winners of this year’s prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
A statement released by the Goldman Environmental Foundation listed other winners to include Niwat Roykaew from Thailand; Marjan Minnessma , the Netherlands; Juliet Vincent, Australia; Nalleli Cobo, United State and Alex Luciatante and Alexandra Narvaez, Ecuador.
The Goldman Prize is awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions.
“The Goldman Environmental Prize honours the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from around the world, inspiring all of us to take action to protect our planet”, the statement said.
The Prize was founded in 1989 in San Francisco by philanthropists and civic leaders Rhoda and Richard Goldman.
In 33 years, the Prize has had an immeasurable impact on the planet. To date, 213 winners have been honoured including 95 women from 93 nations.
“While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us of what can be accomplished in the face of adversity.”
“The Prize winners show us that nature has the amazing capability to regenerate if given the opportunity. Let us all feel inspired to channel their victories into regenerating our own spirit and act to protect our planet for future generations,” said Jennifer Goldman Wallis, Vice President of the Goldman Environmental Foundation.
Williams, who serves as an environmental lawyer prosecuting corporations over environmental pollution cases in Nigeria won the award based on his work with two Niger Delta communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for environmental damage caused by a spill from its facilities into the communities between 2004 and 2007. An average of 240,000 barrels of crude oil spill into the Niger Delta environment each year from pipelines and oil wells, contaminating the water, crops, mangrove forests, and fisheries that people depend on for their livelihoods.
After 13 years of legal proceedings, the Court of Appeal sitting in The Hague, Netherlands, the home country of Shell, on January 29, 2021 ruled in favour of three Nigerian farmers from two communities in two States of the Niger Delta – Eric Barizaa Dooh of Goi Community of Rivers State; Fidelis Oguru and Alali Efanga both from Oruma Community of Bayelsa State.
The Court ruled that not only was Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary responsible for the oil spills, but, as parent company, Royal Dutch Shell also had an obligation to prevent the spills.
The ruling was the first time a Dutch transnational corporation has been held accountable for the violations of its subsidiary in another country, opening Shell to legal action from communities across Nigeria devastated by the company’s disregard for environmental safety.
Chima in an interview with Daily Trust disclosed that the judgement has also impacted the Nigerian judicial system as courts now awards compenstaion to families and communities affected by oil spills.
Previous Nigerian winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize include the late Playwright and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Cross River based environmentalist Odiga Odigha.