A Dutch court has on Friday ruled in favour of Nigerian farmers in the Niger Delta, whose land Shell Nigeria badly affected with oil spills.
The Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that Shell Nigeria must issue payouts over a long-running civil case involving four Nigerian farmers who were seeking compensation, and a clean-up, from the company over pollution caused by leaking oil pipelines.
While not holding Shell’s parent company, which is headquartered in the Netherlands directly responsible, the court ordered it to install a leak detection system on the Oruma pipeline, which has a significant number of the spills in the case.
“Shell Nigeria is sentenced to compensate farmers for damages,” the court said in its ruling, which can be appealed via the Dutch Supreme Court.
According to the judgement, the amount of compensation will be established at a later date.
The farmers and Friends of the Earth campaign group initiated the case in 2008. They seek reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta region, the heart of the Nigerian oil industry.
The spills concerned were between 2004 and 2007, but pollution from leaking oil pipelines remains a big problem in the Niger Delta.
“Tears of joy here. After 13 years, we’ve won,” the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth tweeted following Friday’s ruling.
Although Shell argued that saboteurs were responsible for leaks in underground oil pipes that have polluted the delta, saying it should not be held legally responsible in the Netherlands for the actions of a foreign subsidiary, but the appeals court ruled that while sabotage was the most likely scenario in two of the villages affected, it could not be established beyond reasonable law, meaning the Nigerian subsidiary was liable.
Shell has been exploiting Nigeria’s vast oil reserves since the late 1950s. It has faced heavy criticism from activists and local communities over spills and for the company’s close ties to government security forces
During the argument, Friends of the Earth said that leaking pipes are caused by poor maintenance and inadequate security and that Shell does not do enough to clean up spills