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Dutch court rules Shell Nigeria responsible for oil spills, must compensate farmers

Image by Paul Taggart
A Shell employee at work at the Agbada II flow station in the Delta Region of Nigeria on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2005. Staff was evacuated from two oil installations operated by Royal Dutch Shell in southern Nigeria and troop levels were boosted in the often unstable area by the military after a fatal riverboat attack on a dozen village elders, according to local officials on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007. Oil traded at $100 a barrel for the first time on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2007 on violence in Nigeria and supply disruptions in Mexico. Image by Paul Taggart

The Nigerian subsidiary of Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell is liable for oil spills in Nigeria and must pay Nigerian farmers compensation, an appeals court in The Hague ruled on Friday.

According to the verdict, Shell Nigeria acted unlawfully by allowing the leaks to occur and by failing to clean up the affected area. The court in The Hague did not hold the mother company Royal Dutch Shell responsible.

Shell Nigeria must now compensate three of the four Nigerian claimants for the oil pollution on their land in 2006 and 2007. The amount of the compensation will be determined in a follow-up procedure.

The court has not yet ruled on the case of the fourth farmer. In the first judgment, in 2013, one of the farmers was proved right by the court. The other farmers’ demands were rejected and both camps filed an appeal. The new verdict can be appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court.

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There are regular oil spills in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, the heart of the country’s oil industry. The four Nigerian farmers lost their agricultural land or the area where they could fish and went to court 13 years ago, supported by the Dutch environmental organization Milieudefensie.

Milieudefensie was delighted with the appeals court’s decision. “It is huge that Shell finally has to clean up its mess,” said Donald Pols, director of Milieudefensie. Enditem

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