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Court Cases

Mixed verdict in pollution case against Shell

A Dutch court has rejected most of the landmark case against Royal Dutch Shell for pollution in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. However, the court did order the company to pay damages to one farmer.

The Hague Civil Court on Wednesday dismissed four out of five allegations against the Netherlands-based company brought by Nigerian farmers who said leaking Shell pipelines were poisoning their land and waterways.

The court did, however, order the subsidiary Shell Nigeria to pay one farmer for breach of duty of care by making it too easy for saboteurs to open an oil pipe. The amount of damages to be paid will be established at a later date.

Landmark oil spill case

"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."

In cases of sabotage, under Nigerian law, oil companies are not responsible unless they breach their duty of care.

Four Nigerians and interest group Friends of the Earth filed the suit in 2008 in the Netherlands seaking reparations for lost income from polluted land and water in the Niger Delta region.

The case marks the first time a Dutch company has been sued in a domestic court for offenses allegedly caused by a foreign subsidiary.

The suit targeted Shell's parent company in the Netherlands and its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Co (SPDC). It is the largest oil and gas company in Nigeria, Africa's top energy producer, with a daily output of more than 1 million barrels of oil or equivalent.

Both sides have three months to appeal.

hc/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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