Leadership (Abuja)

30 January 2013

Nigeria: Oil Spill - Dutch Court Rejects Nigerians' Case Against Shell

A Dutch court has largely dismissed a bid by Nigerian farmers to hold oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell responsible for pollution in their villages in the Niger Delta.

According to VOA news, the court in The Hague said only the company's subsidiary, Nigerian Shell, will have to pay damages because it did not adequately protect against sabotage in one case. It rejected all claims against the parent company, saying that under Nigerian law, Shell was not responsible unless it operated with negligence.

The farmers first brought the case in 2008 along with the environmental group Friends of the Earth, seeking to force Shell to clean up the pollution from oil spills that devastated vegetation, water supplies and fishing ponds.

But Shell said it was doing all it could to contain the impact of its operations, and that the spills are largely the work of sabotage by armed gangs who hack into pipelines.

Activists had seen the case as a test of whether international companies can be held liable for alleged offenses by their foreign subsidiaries.

The farmers are from the Ogoniland region of southern Nigeria, which for decades has been a major source of crude oil. Shell is the top multinational company operating in the area.

In 2011, the United Nations published a report blaming the Nigerian government and multinational companies -- especially Shell -- for devastating environmental impacts in the Niger Delta. It said cleaning up the area would take $1 billion and 25 years.

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