The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), an NGO, has described as a healthy development the recent judgement by the Netherland’s court of appeal that held Shell liable for the oil spills it caused across Nigeria’s coastal communities of the Niger Delta in 2008.
In 2008, four Nigerian farmers from Ikot Ada Udo, Oruma and Goi communities in the Niger Delta, supported by the NGO and sister organisation, Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands, sued Shell over oil pollution in the three Nigerian villages.
This case was the first in which a Dutch company, together with its subsidiary, had been sued in a Dutch court for damage caused abroad.
Shell in the process argued that the actions committed in Nigeria could not be tried in Netherlands.
It also denied that it caused the spill and that criminals and third party interference were responsible for oil spill in 2008.
On their part, the farmers demanded that Shell clean up the oil spill, pay compensation for the damage caused, and improve the maintenance of its pipelines and installations to prevent future spills.
The court had ruled in December 2015 that Shell must provide the plaintiffs internal company documents essential to the case and this was the first of its kind in the Dutch legal history.
In a press statement on Friday in Benin, the NGO’s legal officer, Nosa Tokunbor, stated that the case had dragged on for over 13 years with a lot of legal somersaults occasioned by Shell.
He noted that the appeal court in the Hague on January 29, 2021, ruled that Royal Dutch Shell was liable to pay compensation for the oil spills which polluted rivers, fish ponds and farmlands for thousands of local farmers and fishermen.
In his reaction to the court’s ruling, Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), described the outcome of the case as a landmark judgement which the organisation is very proud of.
He said the judgement showed that the days of oil companies in Nigeria, particularly Shell, criminalizing local communities and framing them up for sabotage of crude oil pipelines were over.
According to him, “Shell no longer has any hiding place.”