Dutch court rules in Nigerian farmers' suit against Shell

Jan 30, 2013
Spilled crude oil at B-Dere waterways in Ogoniland, Nigeria August 11, 2011. A Dutch court will decide on Wednesday whether Shell should clean up oil damage that destroyed a group of Nigerian farmers' land, a case that could set a precedent for global environmental responsibility

A Dutch court will decide on Wednesday whether Shell should clean up oil damage that destroyed a group of Nigerian farmers' land, a case that could set a precedent for global environmental responsibility.

judge Henk Wien will hand down a verdict at around 10:00 am (0900 GMT) at a public hearing before The Hague district court in a case that was first filed in 2008.

Thousands of miles (kilometres) from their homes in the Niger delta, four Nigerian farmers and fishermen have dragged the Anglo-Dutch oil giant into court in a civil suit that could open the door for hundreds of similar cases. The plaintiffs are backed by environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth.

It is the first time a Dutch company is being sued in the Netherlands over damage in another country, in this case in 2005.

The farmers want Royal Dutch Shell to clean up the mess, repair and maintain defective pipelines to prevent further damage, and pay out compensation.

In a landmark ruling, the Dutch judiciary in 2009 declared itself competent to try the case despite protests from Shell that its Nigerian subsidiary was solely legally responsible for any damage.

Oil pollution has ravaged large swathes of the Niger Delta, situated in the southeast of the world's eighth-largest oil producer, which exports nearly two million barrels a day.

Shell, the biggest producer in the west African nation where it has been drilling for the last half-a-century, denied responsibility.

The company pinned oil spills between 2004 and 2007 on illegal theft and sabotage.

Friends of the Earth however said the scale of Nigeria's oil pollution was twice that of the five million barrels dumped in the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010, the biggest ever marine spill. Shell disputes the Nigerian figure and puts it much lower.

The UN's environmental agency in 2011 released a landmark report, saying decades of oil pollution in the Niger Delta's Ogoniland region may require the world's biggest ever clean-up and could take up to 30 years.

Environmental groups accuse Shell of double standards and treating spills in Nigeria differently from pollution in Europe or North America, a claim strongly denies.

Legal experts said that should the farmers win, the case would set a precedent as it would be an important step towards holding multinationals answerable for damage done in developing countries.

Environmentalists want the Netherlands, and other Western nations, to pass laws forcing companies to enforce the same environmental responsibility standards abroad as at home.

Explore further: Severe changes in world's leaf growth patterns over past several decades revealed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Oil on Nigerian coast after major Shell spill: NGO

Dec 27, 2011

An environmental group said Tuesday that an oil slick had approached Nigeria's coastline after a major Shell spill last week, but the company insisted that its spill had been largely dispersed.

Nigerian community urges action on oil devastation

Sep 03, 2012

Nigerians from a region devastated by oil spills on Monday called on the president to take action, more than a year after a UN report said the contamination may require the world's biggest cleanup.

Shell deploys ships to clean oil spill off Nigeria

Dec 22, 2011

Shell is deploying ships and mobilising planes on Thursday to clean up an oil spill at a major field off Nigeria, the company says, with some 40,000 barrels estimated to have leaked into the sea.

Recommended for you

Did climate change help spark the Syrian war?

4 hours ago

A new study says a record drought that ravaged Syria in 2006-2010 was likely stoked by ongoing manmade climate change, and that the drought may have helped propel the 2011 Syrian uprising. Researchers say ...

Pollution documentary attracts huge interest in China

10 hours ago

A slick new documentary on China's environmental woes has racked up more than 175 million online views in two days, underscoring growing concern in the country over the impact of air, water and soil pollution.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

88HUX88
5 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2013
vlaaing peerd
not rated yet Jan 30, 2013
latest news reports Shell has been accounted for 1 of the 5 filings. Environmental defense will appeal to higher court for the other 4 cases.
source (Dutch language) http://www.nu.nl/...ria.html
Maggnus
1 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2013
Oil and chemical companies the world over should be very nervous about this case.
Maggnus
1 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2013
vlaaing peerd was trying to say Shell was aquitted on 4 of 5 charges.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.