Nigerian farmers take Shell to court

2012-10-11 09:31

The Hague - Four Nigerian farmers take on Shell in a Dutch court on Thursday, accusing the oil giant of destroying their livelihoods in a case that could set a precedent for global environmental responsibility.

The civil suit, backed by lobby group Friends of the Earth, alleges that oil spills dating back to 2005 by the Anglo-Dutch company made fishing and farming in the plaintiffs' Niger Delta villages impossible.

The case was initially filed in 2008, demanding that Royal Dutch Shell clean up the mess, repair and maintain defective pipelines to prevent further damage and pay out compensation.

In a landmark ruling, the Dutch judiciary in 2009 declared itself competent to try the case despite protests from Shell that its Nigerian subsidiary was solely legally responsible for any damage.

"I inherited the fishponds from my late father. I lost my income due to the oil spill. Now we are struggling to make ends meet," plaintiff Fidelis Oguru, the head of Oruma village, was quoted as saying by Friends of the Earth.

Oil pollution has ravaged swathes of the Niger Delta in the world's eighth largest oil producer, which exports more than two million barrels a day.

Shell is the biggest producer in the west African country, where it has been drilling for over 50 years.

Environmental groups accuse Shell of double standards and treating spills in Nigeria differently from pollution in Europe or North America.

Environmental responsibility

"The scale of the pollution is enormous: twice as much oil has been spilled in Nigeria than was in the Gulf of Mexico. Only there [Nigeria] it's never been cleaned up," Friends of the Earth Netherlands spokesman Geert Ritsema told AFP.

The 2010 explosion and sinking of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig led to around five million barrels of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico in the biggest ever marine spill.

Shell says that spills in Nigeria are well below five million barrels and that the company cleans up whenever there is a leak, many of which it says are caused by sabotage.

Environmentalists want the Netherlands, and other Western nations, to pass laws forcing companies to enforce the same environmental responsibility standards abroad as at home.

If the Nigerians' suit succeeds, it could lead to a flood of similar cases being brought before Dutch courts.

Shell operates in over 90 countries, according to its website.

  • stirrer.stirrer - 2012-10-11 10:00

    These are the people who want to do "responsible fracking" in the Karoo. If anything goes wrong, they are responsible.

      marc.rule - 2012-10-11 10:05

      TRUE! But if that happens it will be to late the damage will be done.

      delish7564 - 2012-10-11 10:59

      @Alicia. I agree the oil companies don't have the best environmental record, however, I think blaming them for every spill is just convenient. In most cases the spills are caused by locals cutting the pipelines for free oil, or sabotage by MEND, although granted there hasn't been much of that recently. Shell and other companies are fighting a losing battle, there is only so much they can do, especially when they have certain operating conditions imposed on them by the Government and unless you actually work in this area, you cannot possibly understand the frustrations of working in that environment. Unfortunately the fortune the country earns from this resource does not filter down to the people who really need it.....too many local Governors lining their own pockets while their people starve. Sound familiar?

      arthur.hugh - 2012-10-11 11:00

      I hope Karoo Farmers sue the (s)Hell out of them too.

      tilovonbrandis - 2012-10-11 17:19

      @delish, when Shell started explorations, they lines the pockets of these corrupt people, and it probably cost them much less than being socially responsible; having to please one person is much cheaper that pleasing many. Also, as said in the article, Shell international does not want to take the legal blame, they want to shift the legal blame onto the Nigerian subsidiary. This subsidary is most possibly not financially capable to pay any damages because all the big profit have gone home and would therefore be untouchable. In all in all, they want to make the profits but blame everyone else for the difficult working conditions and damages. Big oil made 113Bn Dollar profit last year and still got 20bn Dolalr subsidies from government!!!!

  • harald.voney - 2012-10-11 10:17

    This is awsome news!! Responsibility at last!! And, in a SA context, if they make a mess here, which they will, we can force them to cleanup... Hopefully this will deter them from fracking the karoo... They are not responsible, and we do not trust them to be "responsible!!" Frack off shell... I don't fill up there any more!! and non of my staff do either!

      jennifer.d.martin.750 - 2012-10-11 10:32

      Boycott Frackers :D

  • jomar.delange - 2012-10-11 15:16

    F*k Shell - they are evil parasites!

      lorain.maseko - 2012-10-12 07:58

      Oil will do that to you.

  • braamc - 2012-10-11 15:35

    Boycott Shell!!!!!!!!!

  • laumdc - 2012-10-11 16:37

    This the side of economic development and direct foreign investment in Africa that the world never gets to see...

  • laumdc - 2012-10-11 16:37

    This is the side of economic development and direct foreign investment in Africa that the world never gets to see...

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