Court rules Shell must pay farmers over oil spills

Shell Nigeria is liable for damages from pipeline leaks in the villages of Oruma and Goi, the Hague Court of Appeals said in a ruling

A Dutch court has ordered the Nigerian subsidiary of Shell must pay compensation to farmers over oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

The Hague Court of Appeals has ruled in favour of four Nigerian farmers on most points in an oil pollution case that was first brought against Shell in 2008.

Shell Nigeria is liable for damages from pipeline leaks in the villages of Oruma and Goi, the court said in a ruling.

The amount of compensation will be decided later.

According to the ruling, Shell must also ensure there is a leakage detection system in the pipelines in Nigeria to prevent future leaks.

The case is believed to be the first in which a corporation has been tried in the Netherlands for allegedly breaching its duty of care abroad.

Chima Williams of Friends of the Earth Nigeria said: “The verdict against Shell is precedent-setting. Justice for the farmers has taken long to come but it has finally come.

“This case will open prospects for many communities that suffer the same injustices inflicted by Shell and other oil transnational across the Niger Delta and elsewhere.

“Shell may run but it definitely cannot hide from the day of reckoning. This case has proven it.”

Eric Dooh from Goi, one of the four plaintiffs, said: “Finally, there is some justice for the Nigerian people suffering the consequences of Shell’s oil. It is a bittersweet victory, since two of the plaintiffs, including my father, did not live to see the end of this trial. But this verdict brings hope for the future of the people in the Niger Delta.”

A spokesperson for the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) said: “We continue to believe that the spills in Oruma and Goi were the result of sabotage.

“We are therefore disappointed that this court has made a different finding on the cause of these spills and in its finding that SPDC is liable. Sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining are a major challenge in the Niger Delta. Indeed in 2019 around 95% of spill incidents from our operations, there were due to such criminal acts.

“Regardless of the cause, we clean up and remediate, as we have done with the spills in this case. SPDC also works with a range of stakeholders to find solutions to these complex issues. Like all Shell-operated ventures globally, we are committed to operating safely and protecting the local environment.”

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