Dutch Court orders Shell to pay Nigerian farmers for oil leaks

A Dutch court yesterday ordered the Anglo-Dutch oil firm, Shell, to compensate Nigerian farmers for oil spills that polluted swathes of their land in the Niger Delta.

After 13 years of legal battles, an Appeals Court in The Hague ruled that Shell’s Nigerian branch must pay out for leaks on land in two villages. It also held its parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, liable for installing new pipeline equipment to prevent further devastating spills.

The court ordered Shell to compensate three out of four farmers who first lodged the case in 2008, saying the amount of damages would be determined later. 

The case has dragged on so long that two of the Nigerian farmers have died since it was first filed. The farmers sued Shell over pollution in the South-East.

At a hearing last year, lawyers for the farmers showed gushing and burning oil spills as well as villagers dragging their hands through water sources, their hands streaked with the dark-coloured liquid.

A lower court in the Netherlands found in 2013 that Shell should pay compensation for one leak, but that Shell’s parent company could not be held liable in a Dutch court. But in 2015 the Hague Appeals Court ruled that Dutch courts did indeed have jurisdiction in the case. On Friday, the court ruled that Shell Nigeria must pay compensation for the leaks. 

The Dutch arm of environment group Friends of the Earth, which backed the case, said there were “tears of joy” and that “after 13 years, we’ve won.”

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