Shell ordered to compensate Nigerian farmers for contaminated land, water

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An appeals court in The Hague has ruled that SPDC, the Nigerian subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell is responsible for numerous oil pipeline leaks that contaminated farmers’ land and waterways in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

Four farmers defied the odds and brought the case to court with the help of Friends of the Earth environmental group to make the oil giant pay for lost wages, loss of livelihoods, and contaminated land and water caused by major oil leaks from Shell’s Nigerian oil pipelines.

The monetary award was not made public.

Long legal road

This decision supersedes the 2013 verdict in a lower court, which said the Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for the pollution. The appeals judge ruled on four of the six oil spills in the lawsuit and postponed the other two.

The oil spills stem from the 2004-2007 period.

The lower court had previously found SPDC responsible for all six spills.

Shell continues to maintain that the oil spills were from sabotage, known as "bunkering", not from poor maintenance of the pipelines.

"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," it said in a statement.

But the appeals court said Shell hadn’t proven their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

"This makes Shell Nigeria responsible for the damage caused by the leaks," said the court in the verdict.

This is not the first time Shell has had to pay out for oil spills in Nigeria—a British court awards the Niger Delta Bodo Community 70 million euros to residents in 2015.