A Dutch appeals court has Friday ordered oil giant Shell to pay compensation to four Nigerian farmers who allege widespread pollution of their lands caused by oil spills.
The appeal court ruling at The Hague today marks the end of a 13-year legal wrangling between SPDC Nigeria and the two villages over oil spill complicity.
“The court ruled that Shell Nigeria is liable for the damage caused by the spills. Shell Nigeria is sentenced to compensate farmers for damages,” judge Sierd Schaafsma said.
The judgement also held the Anglo-Dutch parent company, Royal Dutch Shell liable for installing new pipeline equipment to prevent further devastating spills in the Niger Delta region.
“In the Uruma cases, Shell Nigeria and… Royal Dutch Shell are ordered to equip the pipeline with a leak detection system so that environmental damage can be limited in the future,” the court said.
The court said it needed more time to resolve the case of Ikot Ada Udo, saying that the leak was due to sabotage but it was not clear whether Shell could still be held liable for it, and for cleaning up.
The case, backed by the Netherlands arm of environment group, Friends of the Earth, has dragged on so long that two of the Nigerian farmers have died since it was first filed in 2008.
“For the inhabitants of the Niger Delta it is crucial that their lands are cleaned up and their lost crops and livelihoods are compensated by the guilty party: Shell,” Donald Pols of Friends of the Earth Netherlands said in a statement ahead of the case.
The number of damages would be determined later, the court said. It did not specify how many of the four farmers would receive compensation.
The four Nigerian farmers, Friday Alfred Akpan and Alali Efanga from Ikot Ada Udo as well as Eric Dooh and Chief Fidelis A. Oguru from Oruma villages in south south and south east regions, Nigeria first sued Shell in 2008 over pollution of their lands.
A lower court in the Netherlands had in 2013 held that Shell should pay compensation for one leak but that Shell’s parent company could not be held liable in a Dutch court for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary.
But in 2015 the Hague appeals court ruled that Dutch courts did indeed have jurisdiction in the case.
Shell also faces a landmark legal bid to force it to meet emissions targets in the Paris climate accords, brought by several environmental groups in the Netherlands led by Friends of the Earth in 2019.