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Dutch court orders Shell to pay Nigerian farmers over oil spills

A Dutch Appeal court has ordered oil giant Shell to pay compensation to four farmers in the Niger Delta for alleged widespread pollution on their farmland.

The four farmers who reside in the Niger Delta region, alongside their ally, the Friends of the Earth campaign group, had in 2008, filed the case against the oil giant. According to the farmers, oil spillage from the pipelines owned by the oil giant destroyed their farmland, leading to huge losses in their products and returns in revenue.

According to the court papers, the farmers said the spills concerned were between 2004 and 2007, but pollution from leaking oil pipelines remains a major problem in the Niger Delta.

Shell had argued that saboteurs were responsible for leaks in underground oil pipes that have polluted the region. The company also argued that it should not be held legally responsible in the Netherlands for the actions of its foreign subsidiary, meaning Shell Nigeria.

However, in its ruling delivered today January 29, the Dutch appeal court ruled that Shell Nigeria, must pay the demanded compensation. The court did not hold Shell’s parent company directly responsible for the spillage but ordered it to install a leak detection system on the Oruma pipeline, the site of a significant number of the spills in the case.

“Shell Nigeria is sentenced to compensate farmers for damages,” the court said in its ruling, which can be appealed via the Dutch Supreme Court.

The amount of compensation will be established at a later date. The court did not specify how many of the four farmers would receive compensation.

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