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Group, Nigerians to sue Shell over oil spills

Published: Monday, 10 Nov 2008

An environmentalist group and four Nigerians, on Friday, filed a suit against Anglo-Dutch Shell in the Netherlands, claiming the company was negligent in cleaning up oil spills in Nigeria.

The group made good an earlier warning in May, to sue Shell due to the slow pace of court proceedings in Nigeria, and Shell’s refusal to obey court orders.

The civil suit filed by the four men and Friends of the Earth, is unusual in that it seeks to hold Shell’s parent company liable for damages allegedly caused by its Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company.

The latest suit, which first hearing has been fixed for February 2009, has increased the spate of lawsuits against Shell in offshore courts, including the United States, on its operations in Nigeria, where it already has more than 500 pollution cases against it.

But very few of these suits have made their way through the judicial labyrinth to a conclusion leading to compensation, the Spokeswoman, Friends of the Earth, Ms. Anne van Schaik said.

“It is very hard to get justice in Nigeria,” she said, adding that “people run out of time, they run out of breath.”

She said the organisation hoped that winning a case in a Dutch court would force Shell to act more quickly to clean spills and compensate victims, or risk a flood of claims in the Netherlands.

Responding, a spokesman of SPDC, Precious Okolobo, while saying that the company could not comment in detail on the court case, however, said both the parent company and its Nigerian subsidiary had answered enquiries on it separately.

He said, “Royal Dutch Shell and SPDC answered enquiries by means of separate, detailed and documented letters in June, to enquiries by Milieudefensi on four oil spills in Niger Delta.

“Our answers made it clear, amongst other things that all these spills were caused by the actions of unauthorised third parties.

“Our responses detailed the various events over time, and the actions that the Joint Venture consisting of NNPC, SPDC, ELF and Agip, took to contain these spills, clean up the spilled oil and restore the areas affected, in full accordance with requirements in force.”


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