Oil Spill: Dutch Court Orders Shell to Pay Nigerian Farmers

The effects on the water of an oil spill which occurred in mid 2007, near the community of Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria, photo taken 28 January 2008.

A court in the Netherlands has directed an oil giant, Shell Nigeria, to compensate four farmers who instituted a suit against the company over oil spills.

The case was filed in 2008 and the plaintiffs said Shell contaminated their soil, making it impossible for them to earn a living from their work because of the oil spills.

According to reports, the spills occurred between 2004 and 2007 in three villages in the region; Goi in Rivers State, Ikot Ada Udo in Akwa Ibom State, and Oruma in Bayelsa State).

But the oil firm blamed saboteurs for the leaks in the underground oil pipes that polluted the ecosystem in Niger Delta, where most oil activities take place.

Shell argued that it should not be held legally responsible in the Netherlands for the actions of a foreign subsidiary, Shell Nigeria.

But the court held that the British-Dutch parent company of the energy company can be held liable for any action carried out by its subsidiary, ordering the firm to issue payouts to the farmers.

According to the Court of Appeal in The Hague on Friday, “Shell Nigeria is sentenced to compensate farmers for damages,” though the exact amount of compensation was not stated. This will be established at a later date.

It is believed that today’s ruling will open a floodgate of cases against international oil companies operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

Recall that a few days ago, the assets of First Bank, a big lender in Nigeria, was taken over through a court order because of bank guaranteed the damages now worth N182 billion awarded by a Rivers State High Court against Royal Dutch Shell Plc about 10 years ago.

The case was also about oil spills that occurred in Rivers State about 50 years ago as the pipelines belonging to Shell were said to have spilled their contents in the waters of Ejama Ebubu community, affecting the living things in the water.

The community took the matter up but the oil company did not claim responsibility for the spill because it said it was caused by “third parties”, noting that it had already cleaned up the affected sites.