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Addax To Pay Billions of Naira for Death, Losses & Damages Arising from Izombe Waste Pit Tragedy

By Martin Okorowu, The Nigerian Voice, Owerri 
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Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Limited has been slammed with a N10 billion suit for allegedly causing the death of three brothers in Oguta LGA, Imo State. The Durugo brothers – Azubuike, Chigozie and Ebuka – suffered a gruesome death in Addax Petroleum’s Izombe Waste Pit in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State on July 6 and 7, 2018.

After waiting in vain for remedies for a year and six months, the bereaved family of Mr. Peter Nnamdi-Durugo, indigenes of Umuduruagha Kindred of Amaudara Village, Obeabo-Izombe, have headed to court to seek damages.

On December 11, 2019, in a 3 - page Writ of Summons issued from Nnaji Dike Chambers and signed personally by Prof. F.C. Dike, SAN (leading a team of Joint Solicitors) which was filed at Oguta High Court, Imo State on behalf of the family of Mr. Peter Nnamdi-Durugo, indigenes of Umuduruagha Kindred of Amaudara Village, Obeabo - Izombe in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State against Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Limited (“APDNL”), the plaintiffs accuse the defendant (Addax Petroleum) of negligence and violation of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR's) Environmental Guideline and Standards (EGAS) in relation to the 2018 Izombe Waste Pit Tragedy that claimed the lives of their sons (three brothers from the same parents) who died in Addax's crude oil waste pit on July 6th and 7th, 2018.

The disaster, which shook the entire Oguta Local Government Area to its foundation by its very severity, has been described by indigenes and mourners alike as a catastrophe of limitless proportions akin to a coordinated campaign of "gene-pool erosion". The tragedy ripped through the hearts of the parents, survivors, under-aged children and family members of the deceased, breaking them into a thousand tiny pieces, just as Addax' deadly stockpile of toxic chemicals ripped out and splintered the flesh and internal organs of the deceased Durugo brothers - Azubuike, Chigozie and Ebuka - while visiting them with the most brutal and gruesome death imaginable, inside a chemical pit that recreates hell on earth. The waste pit is owned, operated and solely controlled by Addax Petroleum in its Izombe Flow Station.

“The Addax Waste Pit tragedy is only the latest in a long run of devastating mishaps caused by poorly managed oil mining facilities and land based units owned, operated, and improperly maintained by MNOCs in Izombe in particular, and in the Imo State oil producing areas, as a whole,” states Chief Enyinna Onuegbu, KSC, Principal Partner at Ebekuodike Chambers, one of the Joint Solicitors who filed the suit.

“Mr. Peter Nnamdi-Durugo's family was all but wiped out,” said Arinze Duru, Esq., the Attorney who sued on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Addax Petroleum repeatedly failed to properly assess the risks posed to the host communities, the local population, their livelihood and their environment by its decrepit facilities, and failed to safely maintain and manage those facilities. A tragedy occasioned by a poorly run crude oil waste pit is not a ‘natural disaster,’ it’s an "improper maintenance tragedy", a disaster occasioned by naked impunity. The unanticipated emotional duress and torture that the plaintiffs continue to suffer is a direct result of the Waste Pit tragedy.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the aged parents, widows and sole surviving brother of the three deceased brothers who have suffered devastation and have had their lives turned upside down by the waste pit tragedy.. As noted in the Statement of Claim (Complaint), the brothers were practically boiled alive by the toxic chemicals, their intestines and other internal organs grotesquely eviscerated, and their sexual organs viciously burnt and exposed to public scorn and opprobrium.

The Complaint avers that Addax Petroleum had failed or refused to proactively secure or properly operate its crude oil waste pit located in its Izombe Flow Station, Addax also admitted in a letter to the Law Offices of Prof. F.C. Dike that its facility was poorly secured. Despite this knowledge and these sub-optimal operating conditions, the MNOC failed to take the appropriate remedial action in order to protect the lives and property of the members of its host community..

As the Complaint concludes, Addax Petroleum, and no one else, caused this devastation and tragic loss of life, unique in terms of its sheer size and scale, which has made the effect impossible to bear, and left 9 infants, aged between 15 months to 13 years without paternal care or guidance and resulted in its becoming the worst tragedy to occur in Izombe in a quarter of a century.

“’Wanton violations by International Oil Companies, IOCs, have caused mass deaths and injuries in Izombe in the past, and Addax Petroleum in particular has been sanctioned on a number of occasions for these kinds of violations before the latest waste pit tragedy occurred,” states Omeoga Chukwu, Esq., Principal Partner at Omeoga Chukwu and Co., another member of the Joint Solicitors representing the plaintiffs. “Addax knowingly and habitually underestimated the potential hazards and risks posed to the Izombe population by its malfunctioning systems and general misfeasance. Had Addax acted promptly and responsibly, the Durugo tragedy could have been prevented.”

“It is devastating to attempt the practical closure of an entire lineage in this manner, and to have a lifetime of memories destroyed,” noted plaintiffs' attorney, Arinze Duru. “That it could have been prevented makes it even more heartbreaking. It is for this reason that we seek the order of Court to punish this egregiously insidious conduct of Defendant."

The lawsuit states multiple causes of action including negligence, public nuisance, premises liability, as well as violations of the law, extant codes, rules and regulations governing oil and gas prospecting, mining and production operations in Nigeria, especially the Department of Petroleum Resources' (DPR) Environmental Guidelines and Standards (EGAS), and seeks N10 billion in punitive and exemplary damages from Addax for its gross negligence occasioning the wrongful death of the deceased, and psychological devastation to the plaintiffs and their families, as well as an order compelling Addax Petroleum to undertake soil and site remedial action and conform itself to global standards in its operations in Izombe and elsewhere in Nigeria.

The Writ of Summons was served on the Defendant at their Izombe Flow station address, in Oguta Local Government Area, Imo State.