For being persistent and consistent in the pursuit of environmental justice, the executive director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Chima Williams Esq., has emerged African winner of the 2022 prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
The Goldman Prize since 1989, is awarded annually to honor the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions.
The Prize recognizes individuals for their sustained significant efforts in protecting the environment, and also seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.
Winners from other continents, according to the Goldman Environmental Foundation include Niwat Roykaew from Thailand; Marjan Minnessma, the Netherlands; Juliet Vincent, Australia; Nalleli Cobo, United States; Alex Luciatante and Alexandra Narvaez, Ecuador.
Chima Williams is the third Nigerian to receive the award after Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 and Odigha Odigha in 2003. The award is in recognition of his tireless involvement in legal fights within and outside the country for environmental justice.
Chima Williams worked with four Nigerian farmers from three Niger Delta communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for the oil spills and environmental damage in Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo communities. Victory came their way in a landmark judgment issued against Shell in the Hague last year.
Williams was also on the legal team that litigated the action against gas flaring in Iwherekan community, Delta State in the case of Jonah Gbemre versus Shell in 2005.
Reacting to the award, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, a sister organization expressed excitement celebrating the African winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize 2022, Chima Williams.
Director of HOMEF, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, said more advocates should rise up to the task of raising new generations of environmental activists to secure a safe future for Nigerians and Africans, in response to the continued destructive environmental activities going on in the continent.
“This award could not have come at a better time for the struggle for environmental justice. The world is at the crossroads with multi crises including climate change, biodiversity loss and others. This award calls attention to the fact that changes can be propelled by grassroots actions. Williams has clearly illustrated this in his many years of dogged and selfless struggles,” Nnimmo said.
“The Goldman Environmental prize given to Chima Williams shines a light on the serious harms that have been inflicted on our environment and the right of the people to stand for justice,” he added.
Center for Media Environment and Development Communication, CEMEDEC has also congratulated the Golden Environmental Prize awardee.
Coordinator of CEMEDEC expressed joy that the hard work of Chima Williams, FOEN and international, and supporters of environmental justice has been rewarded.
“This award is timely and deserving. Chima has been consistent, passionate and unrelenting in his push for environmental justice. The legal option to justice is proving the new effective way of checkmating the impunity of the IOCs and by extending the battle to the Netherlands and getting justice, Chima, Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth and all working for justice in this area, are giving hope to the multitude of communities whose lives, livelihoods and environment have been destroyed by unchecked oil and gas activities”.
“That the IOCs are rushing to move away from onshore to offshore production to avert more litigations, is an offshoot of such legal victories as the one from the Hague by Chima and team, the UK ruling as well as new litigations emboldened by these victories. We want to see more concerted and collaborated efforts by activists, host communities and international groups sympathetic to this cause,” she added.
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