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Nigeria: Niger Delta Communities Sue Shell in Netherlands

 

Nigeria: Niger Delta Communities Sue Shell in Netherlands

 

FOUR Nigerian villagers and an environmental group are asking oil company, Shell to take responsibility for damage from oil leaks caused by its Nigerian subsidiary, lawyers said have said.

The letters sent to Royal Dutch Shell PLC accused the company of negligence by improperly maintaining equipment and failing to clean up spills that devastated crops and fish farms in the Niger Delta.

The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, or Shell Nigeria, operates more than 1,000 wells in the delta, an area the size of England.

The villagers and the Friends of the Earth say that if Shell does not acknowledge responsibility they will file a lawsuit in Dutch courts seeking to clarify responsibility and win damages.

“This is the first time a Dutch company would be held liable for damage by a daughter operation in another country,” said Anne van Schaik, of the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth.

“We are calling on Shell to respect international standards and the law in Nigeria, and because they are not doing that, we are taking them to court in the Netherlands,” she said.

A Shell spokesman in Rotterdam, Andre Romeyn, said he had not yet seen the letters. Shell would need to study them before deciding whether to publicly respond, he said.

Many pipeline leaks in Nigeria are caused by criminals who tap into the vast network of above ground pipes and tubes and siphon crude oil for resale to black-market traders.

Job-seeking villagers also may purposely cause leaks, then demand oil companies pay them clean-up fees, or “security contracts” to protect the tubes from similar damage.

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By some estimates, some 10 per cent of Nigeria’s declared 2 million barrel per day production is lost to thieves stealing crude, which keeps flowing into the environment after the criminals’ departure.

Chima Williams, a Nigerian lawyer who visited the stricken areas, described oil slicks spreading through crop-lands during the rainy season and fishing nets coated with black grime.

“I lost everything I had,” said Barizaa Dooh, 72, one of the plaintiffs, speaking in a video filmed at Goi in Ogoniland.

 

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