Niger Delta activist and lawyer Chima Williams writes in The Guardian Comment is Free section today, revealing some of the ugly details of the Shell oil spills case in The Hague and placing Shell’s appalling environmental record under scrutiny:
As Nigerian villagers take Shell to court over huge oil spills, it’s time for the group to take responsibility for polluting practices
A court in The Hague considers on 3 December whether Shell can be held liable for alleged pollution in Nigeria, and a ruling is expected on 30 December. This case could set a precedent for corporations based in Europe that exploit lax environmental regulations and violate the rights of communities in the developing world.
In the village of Ikot Ada Udot, south-eastern Nigeria, a rusty complex of tubes pokes five feet out of the ground. A familiar sight to locals, it is known as the “Christmas tree”. But unlike its innocuous namesake, this “tree” is an abandoned oil wellhead owned by oil multinational Shell. According to environmentalists, the wellhead spewed toxic oil and gas into the land and fish ponds of local villagers for months in August 2006, and again in 2007. As of May 2008, the area around the Christmas tree was still heavily polluted and villagers remain destitute.