BusinessDay

Shell disagrees with Dutch court ruling on spills

...insists verdict contrary to reality on ground

Shell Nigeria has reacted to the judgment of a Dutch court which held it liable for spills in a part of Ogoni in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

In a short message to newsmen through its spokesman, Bamidele Odugbesan, Shell Nigeria said it continues to believe that the spills in Oruma and Goi were the result of sabotage.

The Court of Appeal in The Hague had on Friday ruled that the Nigerian arm of the British-Dutch company must issue payouts over a long-running civil case involving four Nigerian farmers who were seeking compensation, and a clean-up, from the company over pollution caused by leaking oil pipelines. Two of the farmers are said to have died in the years the case had lasted.

The Court held Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary liable for two leaks that spewed oil over an area of a total of about 60 football pitches in two villages, saying that it could not be established “beyond a reasonable doubt” that saboteurs were to blame.

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But Shell’s statement insists it was third party incident and that 95 percent spills in 2019 were from sabotage.

The Hague appeals court ruled that sabotage was to blame for an oil leak in another village. However, it said that the issue of whether Shell can be held liable “remains open” and the case will be continued as the court wants clarification about the extent of the pollution and whether it still has to be cleaned up.

Under Nigerian law, which was applied in the Dutch civil case, the company is not liable if the leaks were the result of sabotage.

“We are therefore disappointed that this court has made a different finding on the cause of these spills and in its finding that SPDC is liable,” the company said.

“Sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining are a major challenge in the Niger Delta. Indeed in 2019, around 95 percent of spill incidents from our operations there were due to such criminal acts. Regardless of the cause, we clean up and remediate, as we have done with the spills in this case. SPDC also works with a range of stakeholders to find solutions to these complex issues. Like all Shell-operated ventures globally, we are committed to operating safely and protecting the local environment,” it said.

The case which is being backed by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (FoE) in collaboration with FoE Nigeria has lingered for about 13 years. The group had stated prior to the ruling that the Friday verdict was going to be a landmark event. Their Nigerian spokesman, Philip Jakpor, had stated that stronger international regulation was needed if the court ruled that Shell is liable.

The FoE seemed to have looked up much on the ruling which has at last ended the way they had pressed for, claiming that the multinational giant had “completely shirked its responsibility”.

Shell Nigeria has continued to claim that it was not responsible for the spills and that it had worked with credible stakeholders to contain the spills even when they were caused by sabotage.

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