Milieudefensie surprised by Shell’s appeal against Nigerian victim

Amsterdam, 3 May 2013 – Milieudefensie [Friends of the Earth Netherlands] has been surprised to learn that this Wednesday, Shell filed an appeal against the decision of the court in The Hague in a case on a leaking oil well in the Nigerian village of Ikot Ada Udo. The case is part of the lawsuit of Milieudefensie and four Nigerian farmers based on three separate cases of oil pollution from Shell installations.

Earlier this year, following the decision of the District Court of The Hague on 30 January (1), Shell indicated it would accept the opinion of the court in the Ikot Ada Udo case. Shell also indicated at the time that it would pay compensation to the victimised villager, land and fish farmer Elder Friday Akpan, for the years that his company could not function because of the oil pollution. In Ikot Ada Udo, oil spilled from a well head which Shell had abandoned in the fields. Vandals could easily open the valves with a wrench, and oil spilled from the valve. The valve has since been replaced by an underground plug.

As already announced on 30 January, Milieudefensie and the other Nigerian farmers also submitted an appeal (this Wednesday) in the main lawsuit, of which the spill on Akpan’s land is part (2). This appeal further concerns litigation in two cases of spills in the two other villages, in which the court found Shell not guilty, and the fact that the court in The Hague did not find Shell’s Dutch headquarters liable in general for mistakes made by its subsidiary in Nigeria. Shortly after Milieudefensie and the farmers filed their appeal on Wednesday, Shell did as well.

Shell stated that it is appealing the case because the company could not accept the fact that the Dutch court was considered competent to rule on Shell’s subsidiary in Nigeria. But Milieudefensie believes that an appeal by Shell in the case concerning the spill in the village of Ikot Ada Udo is not necessary to address that issue.

Evert Hassink, Milieudefensie Oil and Mining campaigner: ‘Shell can address this question extensively in the two other cases in which Milieudefensie and the rest of the Nigerian farmers have already filed an appeal. It is sad that a multinational such as Shell is now needlessly trying to fight this question of principle at the expense of a ruined Nigerian farmer who has been unable to support his family for years because Shell’s oil has rendered his land unfit for use. We also wonder why Shell initially indicated it would accept the court’s decision and now suddenly has changed its mind. This is a huge letdown for the Nigerian victim.’

Milieudefensie calls on Shell to withdraw its appeal in the Ikot Ada Udo case and to direct its attention to cleaning up the massive oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

(1) Milieudefensie press release on the court decision on January 30th 2013
(2) Milieudefensie press release on May 1st 2013, concerning the appeal by Milieudefensie and the Nigerian plaintiffs