Dutch court says Shell responsible for Nigeria spills

Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:06am EST
 

By Ivana Sekularac and Anthony Deutsch

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A Dutch court ruled on Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for a case of oil pollution in the Niger Delta and ordered it to pay damages in a decision that could open the door to further litigation.

The district court in The Hague said Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. (SPDC), a wholly-owned subsidiary, must compensate one farmer, but dismissed four other claims filed against the Dutch parent company.

Four Nigerians and campaign group Friends of the Earth filed suits in 2008 in The Hague, where Shell has its global headquarters, seeking reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta region, the heart of the Nigerian oil industry.

The case was seen by environmental activists as a test for holding multinationals responsible for offences at foreign subsidiaries, and legal experts said other Nigerians affected by pollution might now be able to sue in the Netherlands.

Shell said the case would not set a precedent because its parent company was not held responsible.

The farmer who won compensation, 52-year-old father of 12 Friday Akpan, said he was very happy with the judgment because it would allow him to repay his debts.

"I am not surprised at the decision because there was divine intervention in the court. The spill damaged 47 fishing ponds, killed all the fish and rendered the ponds useless," he told Reuters in the Niger Delta city of Port Harcourt.

"Since then I have been living by God's grace and on the help of good Samaritans. I think this will be a lesson for Shell and they will know not to damage people's livelihoods."   Continued...

 
A warning sign belonging to the company Royal Dutch Shell is seen along the Nembe creek in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa December 2, 2012. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye