A Dutch court ruled on Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell can be held partially responsible for pollution in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, saying the company should have prevented sabotage at one of its facilities.
The district court in The Hague ordered Shell to pay unspecified damages to one farmer, but dismissed four other claims filed against the Dutch parent company.
Four Nigerians and interest group Friends of the Earth filed the suit in 2008 in the Netherlands, where Shell has its global headquarters, seeking reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta region.
The court backed Shell’s argument that the spills were caused by sabotage and not poor maintenance of its facilities, as had been argued by the Nigerians.
“Shell Nigeria should and could have prevented this sabotage in an easy way,” the ruling said.
“This is why the district court has sentenced Shell Nigeria to pay damages to the Nigerian plaintiff.”
The Nigerians said they could no longer feed their families because the region had been polluted by oil from Shell’s pipelines and production facilities.
The pollution is a result of oil spills in 2004, 2005 and 2007, they said.
It is the first time a Dutch-registered company has been sued in a domestic court for offences allegedly carried out by a foreign subsidiary.
Shell Happy With Judgement
The company reacting to the judgement afterwards said “it was “happy” with a verdict issued by a Dutch district court, which acquitted it of the bulk of pollution charges filed by Nigerian farmers”.
The court said “its wholly owned subsidiary Shell Nigeria was responsible for oil spills but that they had been caused by sabotage, not poor maintenance of its facilities”.