Shell, enviromentalists differ on Dutch court’s ruling on N/Delta spill victims

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Divergent views have continued to trail Friday’s verdict by a Dutch court that found Shell liable for pollution of farmlands and fish ponds of four farmers in the Niger Delta.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a Dutch court on Friday had ordered the Nigerian subsidiary of Shell, to pay compensation over the 2008 oil spills in Oruma, Bayelsa, Goi in Rivers and Ikot Ada Udo, in Akwa Ibom.

NAN recalls that four farmers had dragged Shell to a Dutch court over a 2008 oil spillage that adversely affected their farms

The Court of Appeal in The Hague, ruled that the Nigerian arm of the British-Dutch company, SPDC should compensate the four farmers and undertake a clean-up of pollution, from its leaking oil pipelines and install anti-leak devices on them.

However, while Shell expressed disappointment over the ruling, some environmentalists applauded the decision of the Dutch Court of Appeal, in favour of the farmers affected by the oil spillage.

The SPDC said it was disappointed by the ruling, insisting that the incident in question was caused by sabotage.

Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, Media Relations Manager of the SPDC told NAN that most leaks from its operations were caused by vandals.

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”We continue to believe that the spills in Oruma and Goi are 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 findings that SPDC is liable.

”Sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining are a major challenge in the Niger Delta.

”Indeed in 2019, about 95 per cent of spill incidents from our operations there, were due to such criminal acts.

”Regardless of causes, we clean up and remediate, as we have done with the spills in this case,”he said.

According to him, the 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,” Odugbesan added.

NAN reports that the exact amount of compensation would be determined, at a later date, while Shell which lost the appeal could still appeal against the ruling at the Dutch Supreme court.

Also reacting, Mr Iniruo Wills, President, Homeland Chapter of Ijaw Professionals Association, and a former Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa, applauded the ruling of the Dutch court.

”This is a most welcome landmark ruling. It is a crying shame that hapless folks and communities have to shop for environmental justice abroad, because they cannot find it in Nigeria.

”In addition to litigating specific cases, there is a need for intensive sensitisation of the Nigerian judiciary and the regulatory system, including the Federal Ministry/Ministers of Petroleum and Environment, to demonstrate a sense of urgency, duty and commitment.

”It is embarrassingly lacking, for over sixty years till date, that environmental justice has eluded communities, whose existence is threatened by the continually worsening plague of oil and gas pollution,” Wills said.

Also speaking, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic for Environmental Activism, noted that the decision was right and just.

”This judgement did not come as a surprise to some of us. The evidence was overwhelming and has refused to disappear even after 13 years. There are some crimes that are hard to hide. Environmental crimes are of that sort.

”It takes willful blindness to pretend not to see, smell or feel. We are happy that Shell has been told the truth to that, so they must pay for the extreme harm they have inflicted on the people and the environment.

”It took long, two of the four plaintiffs died, but their struggle has not been in vain.

”No corporation, private or public, should ever think they can commit Ecocide in the Niger Delta and not be held accountable.

”It may take long, but judgment day comes. This is a decision by the Dutch Court, others will definitely come,” Bassey said. (NAN)

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