The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has described the recent judgement by the Netherlands Court of Appeal that held Shell is liable for the oil spills it caused across Nigeria’s coastal communities of the Niger Delta in 2008 as commendable and land mark.
The case which has lingered for over 13 years, was, however, decided by the Appeal Court in the Hague on January 29, 2021.
The Court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell was liable to pay compensation for the oil spills which polluted rivers, fishpond and farmlands that thousands of local farmers and fishermen.
In a statement signed by the Legal Officer, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Barr Nosa Tokunbor, the group noted that with the recent judgement, oil companies that have been destroying the ecosystem in Nigeria no more have hiding place.
The Rights group recalled that, “in 2008, four Nigerian farmers from Ikot Ada Udo, Oruma and Goi in the Niger Delta supported by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria and sister organization, Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands, sued Shell because of 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 cannot be tried in the Netherlands. It also denied it caused the spill and that criminals and third party interference were responsible for oil spills in 2008.
“On their part, the farmers demanded that Shell clean up the oil spills; pay compensation for the damages 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 his reaction to the Court ruling, the Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, described the outcome of the case as a landmark judgment which the organisation is very proud of.
“Shell no longer has any hiding place, as this victory will open up a floodgate of court cases against Shell and the oil companies doing business in Nigeria and hiding under weak regulations, lack of enforcement of its extant rules, and taking advantage of the lack of political will of the Nigerian government to bring oil transnationals to account.
“The significance of the landmark judgement is that it addresses the question of access to justice that is very much in question in Nigeria when it comes to holding the oil companies accountable for their human rights violations and environmental degradation.
“The judgment has further shown the environmental liability of parent companies for the conduct of their foreign subsidiaries,” Ojo stated.
Ojo, therefore, called on the Niger Delta communities and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) not to relent in their pursuit for justice, adding that over 13 years struggle in the court has paid off.
He enjoined Shell to comply with the Court proceedings while urging the judge to do the needful in awarding compensation and preventive costs.
The group called on the federal government to revamp its regulatory bodies in the oil industry, ensure that criminal acts of oil transnationals are punished severely and that the country starts taking concrete steps to wean Nigeria of its dependence on revenues from oil and gas.
It also called on the government to build a new economy on the back of a clear renewable energy framework as quickly as possible and ensure the gradual phasing out of oil and gas activities in Nigeria.