+31 (0)20 578 83 00


Shell oil pollution Nigeria: partly to blame


A Dutch court rejects four out of five allegations against Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell over oil pollution in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, but awarded damages in a fifth, in cases brought by farmers and fishermen claiming that oil spills from pipelines in Nigeria damaged their livelihoods the court also dismissed all claims against the parent company, based in the Netherlands, saying that Nigerian law meant only Shell’s local subsidiary was liable. This means the case doesn’t set a legal precedent over how Dutch companies are held responsible for the actions of their foreign subsidiaries.

The suit was brought by environmental group Friends of the Earth Netherlands and four Nigerian farmers and fishermen, who were seeking compensation over claims that oil spills from Shell pipelines in Nigeria damaged their livelihood. They also said they wanted the Anglo-Dutch oil company, based in The Hague, to complete the cleanup of the spills.

On 30 December 2009, the court already decided that it is competent to rule on the case. In the final judgment, the court holds that Friends of the Earth Netherlands are entitled to initiate a class suit under Dutch law before the Dutch courts for liability caused in another jurisdiction.

The court, which posted the verdict on its website, said that in the single case where Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was ordered to pay compensation, the company “could and should have prevented” the sabotage of its pipeline that caused the spill by installing a concrete plug on an abandoned oil well before 2006.

Click here to read the court’s press release and the judgments.