Court finds Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary partly responsible for a case of oil pollution in the Niger Delta
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Wednesday 30 January 2013
A Dutch court has found a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell partly responsible for a case of oil pollution in the Niger Delta - a ruling hailed as a small but important step in holding multinational oil companies to account for environmental damage.
The district court in The Hague ruled that Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for one case of oil pollution in the Delta as it had failed to take adequate measures to prevent sabotage, and must pay damages.
However, the court also dismissed four other claims against the parent company itself, Royal Dutch Shell. The company said this meant a legal precedent had not been set.
The suit was filed by four Nigerian farmers, represented by the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, and centred on four oil spills between 2004 and 2007 in the Delta villages of Goi, Oruma and Ikot Ada Udo, which locals said had polluted their land.
The case was seen by green activists as a test for holding multinationals responsible for the offences of foreign subsidiaries: it was the first time a Dutch-registered company had been sued in a domestic court for alleged damage abroad.
Whatever the legal position, there is no dispute about the extent of the devastation caused by the oil production to Nigeria’s coastal region, which once supported thriving communities of farmers and fishermen, many of whom now find their livelihoods impossible because of the pollution.
The Delta of the River Niger in Nigeria is regarded as the most oil-polluted region on Earth. Fifty years of spills involving millions of barrels of crude oil would need the biggest clean-up in history to put right, according to a United Nations report. The UN Environment Program said that any environmental restoration “…could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken, if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health.”
The issue was first highlighted in the 1990s by the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian military government in 1995, sparking international outrage. Since then there have been years of militancy by armed groups in Delta, the size of Portugal and home to 31m people, which had its origins in local anger over oil pollution and shut down nearly half of Nigeria’s oil output until an amnesty in 2009.
According to data from the company, there were 198 oil spills at Shell facilities in the Niger Delta last year alone, releasing around 26,000 barrels of oil,
The firm says 161 of these spills were caused by sabotage or theft, while 37 incidents were caused by operational failure. Local communities say Shell underreports the amount of barrels spilled.
“We will pay compensation,” said its vice president for environment, Allard Castelein. “But we didn’t lose the case. It was not operational failure. The leak was the consequence of sabotage.”
The Dutch arm of FoE welcomed the compensation order for the one village, but said it was “stunned” by its defeats in other villages. FoE spokesman Geert Ritsema said they would appeal against the acquittals “because there is still a lot of oil lying around. These sites need to be cleaned.”
Hundreds of other Nigerians in the village of Icot Ada Udo, where farmer Friday Akpan lives, can now take similar legal action, he said.
Shell is facing ongoing legal action brought in a UK court on behalf of 11,000 members of the Niger Delta Bodo community, who say the company is responsible for spilling 500,000 barrels in 2008. Shell has admitted liability for two spills in the Bodo region but estimates the amount spilled is far lower. Bodo’s case could be heard in the High Court in London next year.
- 1 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 4 Ebola virus: UK health officials issue warning to doctors as experts admit the outbreak 'is not under control'
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45 after suffering from cancer
'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
Richard Dawkins says 'date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse' on Twitter
Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45 after suffering from cancer
Zayn Malik on Israel-Gaza: One Direction singer bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine
MH17 crash: Black boxes show plane suffered 'massive explosive decompression' following shrapnel hit
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
- < Previous
- Next >
Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...
£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...
£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...