Court orders Shell to compensate Nigerian farmers for oil spills

*With other legal woes to contend with, the Hague Court of Appeals, in the Netherlands, rules that Shell Nigeria is liable for oil spills and should pay compensation to affected farmers in Oruma and Goi areas of Niger Delta

*This is fantastic news for the environment and people living in developing countries. It means people in developing countries can take on the multinationals who do them harm ─Friends of the Earth

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

A Dutch court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Nigerian unit to compensate farmers for oil spills in two villages in the Niger Delta region of the country.

The Hague Court of Appeals, in the Netherlands, in a ruling Friday, January 29 said Shell Nigeria is liable for damages from pipeline leaks in the villages of Oruma and Goi in the Niger Delta area of the country.

Sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining have constituted a major challenge in the Niger Delta over time.

With the specific amount of compensation Shell Nigeria should pay to be decided later, the court as well ordered the unit and its Hague-headquartered parent company to build better warning systems so future leaks can be quickly detected, according to agency report.

ConsumerConnect reports that hitherto, the Anglo-Dutch major in 2019, had said that 95 percent % of incidents from its operations were due to sabotage, crude theft or illegal refining.

Shell in a statement noted that “we continue to believe that the spills in Oruma and Goi were the result of sabotage.

The Hague Court of Appeals, in the Netherlands

“We are, therefore, disappointed that this court has made a different finding on the cause of these spills and in its finding that.”

It was gathered the case is the first in which a company and its foreign subsidiary have been tried in the Netherlands for allegedly breaching duty of care abroad, and it could have far-reaching implications for future suits brought against oil firms.

The ruling sets a precedent for where such case can be heard and potentially increases the number of court cases taking place in oil companies’ home countries, rather than those where alleged pollution is happening.

Likewise, the court disclosed that a case over whether Shell is also liable for an oil leak in the village of Ikot Ada Udo would continue.

Though the court established that the spill was a result of sabotage, yet it is seeking to determine whether the pollution has spread and if it still needs to be cleaned.

Meanwhile, in a separate action brought by Milieudefensie, the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, a court in The Hague will determine May 2021 whether Shell is violating human rights by extracting fossil fuels.

Whereas in the United Kingdom, thousands of Nigerians are also asking British legal authorities for permission to sue the international oil company for environmental damages caused in the Niger Delta.

Following Friday’s court ruling, Donald Pols, Head of Friends of the Earth and Director of Milieudefensie, in the Netherlands, said: “This is fantastic news for the environment and people living in developing countries.

“It means people in developing countries can take on the multinationals who do them harm.”

Recall that Friends of the Earth brought the case together with four Nigerian farmers in 2008.

Pols added: “The consequences of this case are immense,” as he noted that he expects hundreds of similar cases to follow.

“Companies will realise they can be held responsible for environmental violations abroad,” said he.

The only possible future legal avenue left to either party, nonetheless, would be to appeal at the Netherlands’ highest court, according to report.

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