A Dutch court has ordered Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to pay compensation over oil spills in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
This recent ruling could rise to many more cases against the Nigerian subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell over its operations in the country.
The court found SPGC liable for damages from pipeline leaks in the 2 villages of Oruma and Goi and will decide the amount of compensation later.
According to a report by Aljazeera, the Court of Appeal in The Hague on Friday ruled that the Nigerian arm of the British-Dutch oil company, which has its headquarters in the Netherlands, must pay compensation over a long-running civil case involving 4 Nigerian farmers seeking compensation, and a cleanup, from the company over pollution caused by leaking oil pipelines.
The court did not specify how many of the 4 farmers would receive compensation for the oil spillage.
Although the court did not indict Royal Dutch Shell as being directly responsible for the oil spillage, it, however, ordered it to install a leak detection system on the Oruma pipeline, the site of a significant number of the spills in the case.
The court in its ruling said, “Shell Nigeria is sentenced to compensate farmers for damages.’’ The ruling can be appealed via the Dutch Supreme Court.
This is the first time a company and its foreign subsidiary have been tried in the Netherlands for allegedly being negligent abroad and could have far-reaching implications for future legal actions against oil firms.
The Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth, one of the groups that initiated this legal action, tweeted, ‘’Tears of Joy her. After 13 years, we’ve won.’’
What this means
This ruling has set a precedent for where such cases can be heard and could potentially increase the number of court cases against the international oil firms in their home countries rather than in Nigeria where those oil spillage or environmental degradation would have occurred.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that this case was established in 2008 by the farmers and the Friends of the Earth campaign group, who were seeking compensation for lost income from contaminated land and polluted waterways in the Niger Delta region, the heart of the Nigerian oil industry.
- The reported oil spillage occurred between 2004 and 2007, but pollution from leaking oil pipelines remains a major problem in the Niger Delta.
- Shell argued that saboteurs were responsible for leaks in underground oil pipes that have polluted the delta. The company also argued that it should not be held legally responsible in the Netherlands for the actions of a foreign subsidiary, meaning Shell Nigeria.
- Friends of the Earth, which has supported the Nigerian farmers in their legal battle, argues that leaking pipes are caused by poor maintenance and inadequate security and that Shell does not do enough to clean up spills.
- Shell is facing other legal battles. In a separate action brought by Milieudefensie, the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, a court in The Hague will determine in May whether Shell is violating human rights by extracting fossil fuels.