There have long been cries for help from the Niger Delta area of Nigeria, due to environmental degradation.
We witnessed the slow poisoning of the waters of this country and the destruction of vegetation and agricultural land by oil spills which occur during petroleum operations. But since the inception of the oil industry in Nigeria, more than twenty-five years ago, there has been no concerned and effective effort on the part of the government, let alone the oil operators, to control environmental problems associated with the industry. The delta covers 20,000 km² within wetlands of 70,000 km² formed primarily by sediment deposition. Home to 20 million people and 40 different ethnic groups, this floodplain makes up 7.5% of Nigeria’s total land mass. It is the largest wetland and maintains the third-largest drainage basin in Africa (Wikipedia)
Shell Rejects Liability Claim
The Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has rejected claims by four Nigerian farmers that it should pay compensation for damage to their land. The Nigerian farmers and their legal team argue that Shell could have prevented the spills. The farmers are suing the company in a civil court in The Hague, claiming oil spills ruined their livelihoods.
Shell’s lawyers Jan de Bie Leuveling Tjeenk told the court it could not be held liable because most spills were caused by criminal damage, claiming that repairs were hard to carry out because of insecurity in the Niger Delta. He further went on, telling the court that sabotage and oil theft were widespread in the region. The case is being brought against Shell by the farmers and the Dutch arm of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
If their case is successful it could pave the way for thousands of other compensation claims, says the BBC’s Anna Holligan in The Hague. It is the first time a Dutch multinational has been taken to a civil court in the Netherlands in connection with damage caused abroad. The case is linked to spills in Goi, Ogoniland; Oruma in Bayelsa State and a third in Ikot Ada Udo, Akwa Ibom State.
Channa Samkalden, lawyer for the Nigerians, told the court that Shell had failed to maintain its pipelines, clean up leaks and prevent pollution.
She said Judges are now considering the evidence and a ruling is expected early next year. Shell official Allard Castelein told the BBC the spills in question “were all caused by sabotage”. Shell says it has cleaned up pollution at the three locations in question and this has been certified by relevant Nigerian authorities.
Last year, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme said that over half a century of oil operation in the region, by firms including Shell, had caused deeper damage to the Ogoniland area of the Niger Delta than earlier estimated. The company has accepted responsibility for two specific spills in the region in 2008, saying it would settle the case under Nigerian law.
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