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Dutch Court rules against Shell over oil spills in Niger Delta (UPDATED)

The Court of Appeal in the Hague, Netherlands has ruled that the Royal Dutch Shell and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, are liable to to pay compensation for oil spills in the Niger Delta.

The Dutch Court who held Shell responsible for the oil spills in Goi and Oruma communities in Bayelsa and Rivers State respectively, also ruled that Shell should ensure that no further spills occurred in these communities.

Recall that four Nigerian farmers together with Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie), went to court in 2008, seeking to hold RDS and SPDC individually responsible for the oil spills and the failure to clean up the pollution in Oruma, Goi, Ikot Ada-Udo communities in Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States.

The farmers, which include Princewill Alali Efanga, Chief Eric Barizaa Dooh, Elder Friday Alfred Akpan, and Chief Felix Oguru, had urged the Court to order Royal Dutch Shell to mandate its subsidiary, SPDC, to remediate and recover the environment, that was destroyed by its facilities.

Delivering the judgement, the Dutch Court said Shell will be required to give the Nigerian plaintiffs financial compensation and also ordered Shell to clean up the pollution and prevent further spills in Oruma community and Goi Community in Rivers State.

For Elder Friday Akpan in Ikot Ada-Udo community in Akwa Ibom State, the Dutch Court is yet to give judgement , as the Court said it will need to gather more information on the matter. However, a lower court in the Hague had rule in 2012 that Shell should compensate the farmer for his losses.

Reacting to the judgement, the Nigerian Counsel to the four farmers, Barr. China Williams, said the Court has set a new standard that will give hope to ordinary citizens that no matter how powerful a company is, there will always be a day of reckoning.

Williams, who is also the Acting Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria, described the judgement as historic.

He said the judgement is unique because it is the first time a Dutch company has been held liable together with its foreign subsidiary for the breach of its duty of care abroad.

“Today is a historic day for communities in the Niger Delta. Shell has been held accountable for destroying the Niger Delta environment. The journey started way back 2008 and today, we are having a judgement from the Court of Appeal in the Hague, Netherlands.

“Recall that in 2018, the lower court uphled our claims that the Royal Dutch Shell can be held accountable for the actions of their subsidiary companies abroad.

“With today’s judgement, a global standard has been set.”

Speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt, the three elated farmers described the judgement as a world-class precedent against oil multinationals, hence should be a lesson for other companies operating in the Niger Delta.

One of the Appellant, Chief Eric Barizah Dooh, whose home, farm, school and bakery was destroyed in the spill, commended ERA and Milleudefensie for supporting them to get justice.

“It is a world-class precedent against a multinational oil company They will never behave the way they have been behaving.

“It will be a lesson to other multinational oil companies that are operating in the Niger Delta to do the right thing and the polluter-pay principle will be in full force.”