[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n reaction to Volkswagen AG’s recent emission test scandal, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has requested the Federal government to investigate Volkswagen’s business in Nigeria
In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, SERAP urged him to use his “good offices and leadership to urgently investigate Volkswagen’s business in Nigeria to see if cars sold to Nigerians rigged carbon emissions data and potentially in breach of human rights including the rights to life, health and a general satisfactory environment.”
“Unless the Nigerian government urgently intervenes as requested, SERAP will take appropriate legal action to hold both the government and Volkswagen accountable for breaches of constitutional and international law,” the group said.
The letter dated 14 October 2015 and signed by SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni reads in part: “SERAP notes that the Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) recently revealed that your government has no position on the Volkswagen’s emission scandal. Yet, the SON has stated that Nigerian citizens are at risk. Even Volkswagen has admitted wrongdoing for breaching the public trust and stated that about 11 million of its cars worldwide were fitted with the technology dubbed defeat device.
“SERAP is concerned that while other countries are carrying out investigations on the problem and sanctioning Volkswagen for the serious breaches to the rights to health and environment, the Nigerian government has so far taken no action on the matter.
“SERAP is also concerned that breaches by Volkswagen may violate Nigerian Consumer Protection Act, in addition to constituting human rights abuses. Suppression of emission controls can lead to serious health problems such as asthma, and contribute to premature death, especially among the most vulnerable sectors of the population like women, children and elderly.
“The Nigerian government has an obligation to respect, protect, fulfil and promote the rights to life, health and a general satisfactory environment, by protecting Nigerian citizens against pollution and in particular certain chemicals and agents that can cause diseases and undermine citizens’ human rights. Accordingly, the government has an obligation to ensure that automobile manufacturers like Volkswagen are not allowed to operate in a way that will undermine effective enjoyment of human rights by Nigerians.”
The group, therefore urged the President to order relevant bodies to “investigate the potential human rights risks to millions of Nigerians as a result of admission by Volkswagen that it used a defeat device in cars to evade clear air standards; ask Volkswagen to come clean as to the number of vehicles affected in Nigeria, recall such vehicles and implement free replacement program consistent with human rights standards as well as pay adequate compensation where appropriate.
The group also requested federal government to mandate Volkswagen to publicly express commitment to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to its affected vehicles.