Shell Nigeria ordered to appear before the Dutch court

Amsterdam, 30 December 2009 - Milieudefensie [Friends of the Earth Netherlands] is satisfied with the decision of the court in The Hague, which today determined that the Dutch court has jurisdiction to rule on the activities of Shell Nigeria.

Last year, Milieudefensie, in conjunction with four Nigerian farmers, started a legal case against both Shell Nigeria and its parent company in the Netherlands to expose oil pollution in the Niger Delta. On 3 December, Shell argued in court that the Dutch court was not competent to rule on Shell Nigeria. Now that Shell has been defeated on this point, this hurdle has been passed and the ‘real’ case can begin.

The four Nigerian farmers, who are bringing the case with Milieudefensie, come from three different villages. They have been seriously affected by oil leaking from Shell pipelines, which has polluted their agricultural fields and fish farms. They demand that Shell clean up the oil that remains on the soil and in the water, repair the damage to the environment and compensate their losses. They also want Shell to better maintain the pipelines and installations in the future.

Geert Ritsema, spokesperson for Milieudefensie: ‘These people have been trying for years to get Shell to clean up its mess and stop polluting their homeland. But they have come away empty-handed every time. That’s why they are now trying to obtain justice in the Netherlands. This decision by the court is the first victory for all Nigerians who have been fighting for years for a cleaner environment and for justice.’

The plaintiffs are farmers and fishers from the villages of Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo, all located in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Milieudefensie believes that the oil leaks are not just isolated incidents but are part of a pattern of systematic, serious pollution and contempt for the rights of local people, which has been going on for decades.

The substantive proceedings for the first legal case, concerning the oil leak in Oruma, are expected to start in the spring of 2010. Due to a leak from the high-pressure pipeline in June 2005, the fish ponds and agricultural lands of plaintiff Alai Efanga have remained unusable up to the present. Fish farming can no longer be carried out and the drinking water is severely polluted. Efanga: ‘People in our village are happy to hear the decision of the Dutch court. We hope that Shell will now quickly clean up the oil pollution, so that we can again fish and grow food.’