Environment & Climate ChangeNews

After 12 Years of Legal Battle, Dutch Court Orders Shell To Pay Nigerian Farmers

Dutch Court in Hague has ordered oil giant Shell to pay compensation to four Nigerian farmers affected by oil spills in the Niger Delta, the court proceedings which began in 2008 was supported by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands).

The four farmers and Milieudefensie believed Shell should be held liable for damages caused by the oil spills in the villages of Goi, Oruma and Ikot Ada Udo in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta.

Dutch broadcaster reported that the amount of compensation to be paid will be determined at a later session.

According to the report, Shell said during the trial that the spills were caused by some residents and local gangs, who it argued were deliberately making holes in the pipes to steal the oil, while Shell’s parent company also said it was not directly responsible, as day-to-day management is in the hands of subsidiary Shell Nigeria.

In an undated statement on its Website, Milieudefensie said if the court ruled that Shell was indeed liable for the oil spills and resulting damage in Nigeria, it could set a precedent and could possibly open the door to future lawsuits against Shell or other multinationals.

“This would allow other victims to seek justice and compensation in the Dutch courts,” the statement added.

The court process went through a series of legal battles as the Anglo-Dutch company tried to prevent the case from being heard in the Netherlands, but in 2015, judges gave the case a go-ahead.

The lawyers to the farmers in October 2020 at the Hague Appeal Court accused the multinational oil company of polluting the affected villages and demanded compensation as well as clean up of the oil spills.

In December 2020,  employees of Royal Dutch, Shell’s Nigerian joint venture were accused of orchestrating damage to oil pipelines to profit from the money spent on clean-up operations.

“Employees of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria recruited local youth to sabotage the pipelines and then hired them back as workers to clean up the mess,” the report said, citing Milieudefensie research.

According to Amnesty International, the Niger Delta is Africa’s most important oil-producing region, and one of the most polluted places on earth.

“For decades, oil spills have been damaging the environment and devastating lives in this part of Nigeria,” Amnesty International said in 2018.

After legal proceedings in Nigeria itself were found to be ineffective, four Nigerian farmers, Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) decided to jointly bring both Shell Nigeria and Shell’s headquarters in the Netherlands before the Dutch court in connection with oil pollution to their land.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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