Daily Independent (Lagos)
Niger Delta Group Floors Shell in the Hague – ERA Commends Ruling
3 January 2010
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described the ruling of a court at The Hague, Netherlands affirming its jurisdiction over the operations of Shell Nigeria as the first victory of an oppressed people over an unrepentant corporation.
Four Nigerian farmers from Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo communities had initiated the lawsuit together with Friends of the Earth Netherlands, claiming their communities have been severely polluted by oil that flowed from a leaking Shell pipeline into farmlands and fish ponds.
They were asking the court to compel Shell to clean up the oil spill in their communities and compensate them for the damage to the environment and their possessions.
But Shell had argued that the court in The Hague has no jurisdiction over Shell Nigeria.
With the ruling at The Hague, the substantive hearing of the first lawsuit involving the oil spill in Oruma is expected to hold in 2010.
Reacting to the development in a statement issued in Benin on Wednesday, ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, said: “The ruling of the court in The Hague is a welcome development and serves as a pointer to Shell and other polluters must expect to have their day in the dock. Shell can no longer avoid prosecution for offences committed outside its headquarters in Netherlands.”
“It is also laudable that in spite of all odds the community people remained resolute in taking their destinies in their own hands in a peaceful way. The disruption of their livelihoods without compensation is the height of human rights abuse.
“Shell must account for this. We are happy that the prophecy of Ken Saro Wiwa that one day Shell will be put in the dock is coming to pass.”
Geert Ritsema, spokesperson of Friends of the Earth Netherlands said: “For years, these people have been trying to get Shell to clean up its mess and stop polluting their habitat. However, again and again they have come away empty handed. That is why they are now trying to get justice in the Netherlands.
“The court decision is an initial victory for all Nigerians that have been fighting for years for a cleaner habitat and justice.”
Alai Efanga, one of the plaintiffs, who suffered massive loss to a massive spill from a high-pressure oil pipeline in June of 2005, expressed happiness at the turn of events.
According to him, “Our village is pleased with the decision of the Dutch court. We hope that Shell will now
quickly clean up the oil pollution so that we can resume growing food and fishing.”
Also, Founder/President, Hope for Niger Delta Campaign (HNDC), Sunny Ofehe, commended the court ruling on Wednesday.
His words: “This is a moral victory for all Niger Deltans. The plight of the people from the region can now be heard in an international court where justice could be served.
“I want to thank the Dutch court for defying all the odds and accept to hear this landmark case.”