Positive news this morning as a Dutch court ruling announced that four Nigerian farmers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands can hold Royal Dutch Shell and Shell Nigeria accountable, a short distance from Shell’s global headquarters in The Hague. For more details please see the press release from Friends of the Earth Netherlands. If found liable, Shell could be forced to pay compensation and ordered to clean up ‘massive’ oil spills in the Niger Delta.
Shell Nigeria to appear before Dutch court
Friends of the Earth and Nigerian farmers pleased with first success in lawsuit against Shell
Amsterdam, 30 December – Friends of the Earth Netherlands (in Dutch:
Milieudefensie) are pleased with the ruling from the court of The Hague.
Today, the court held that the Dutch court has jurisdiction over the
operations of Shell Nigeria. Friends of the Earth Netherlands together with
four farmers from Nigeria filed the lawsuit against both Shell Nigeria and
the Shell parent company in the Netherlands earlier this year in order to
expose the oil pollution in the Niger Delta. Shell asked the court to rule
that the Dutch court has no jurisdiction over Shell Nigeria. Given that
Shell has now lost this point, an important hurdle has been overcome, and
the ‘real’ lawsuit can begin.
The four Nigerian farmers, who initiated the lawsuit together with Friends
of the Earth Netherlands, come from three different villages. They have
been severely affected by oil that flowed from a leaking Shell pipeline and
polluted their farm lands and fish ponds. They demand that Shell clean up
the oil left in the soil and compensate them for the damage to the
environment and their possessions. They also want Shell to improve its
maintenance of the pipelines and facilities in the future.
Geert Ritsema, spokesperson of Friends of the Earth Netherlands: ‘For
years, these people have been trying to get Shell to clean up its mess and
stop polluting their habitat. However, again and again they have come away
empty handed. That is why they are now trying to get justice in the
Netherlands. The court decision is an initial victory for all Nigerians
that have been fighting for years for a cleaner habitat and justice.’
The plaintiffs are farmers and fishermen and come from the villages of
Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo, all three located in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
According to Friends of the Earth Netherlands, the oil spills are not
incidents but represent a pattern of systematic and serious pollution and
contempt for the rights of the local population that has been going on for
The substantive hearing of the first lawsuit is expected to be held in the
spring of 2010. The first lawsuit involves the oil spill in Oruma. As a
result of an oil spill from a high-pressure oil pipeline in June of 2005,
the fish ponds and farm land of plaintiff Alai Efanga are still unfit for
use today. It is no longer possible to grow fish; the drinking water has
also been seriously contaminated. Efanga: ‘Our village was pleased with the
decision of the Dutch court. We hope that Shell will now quickly clean up
the oil pollution so that we can resume growing food and fishing.’
For more information visit the Milieudefensie website.
Press information: + 31-6-29593873
Speakers are available in Nigeria, UK and Netherlands.