Milieudefensie's lawsuit against Shell in Nigeria

Milieudefensie, together with four Nigerian farmers, sued Shell in 2008. We believe that Shell is guilty of causing oil pollution in three Nigerian villages. This case is unique because it is the first time a Dutch company has been sued in a Dutch court of law and held liable for the l damage it caused abroad.­­­

What do we want?

  • We want Shell to clean up the oil that has leaked from pipelines into the fields and fish ponds.   
  • We want Shell to pay compensation. The oil spills have caused massive fish kills and contamination of croplands. This has ruined the livelihoods of residents. We demand that the farmers be compensated for the damage.
  • We demand that Shell improve the maintenance of its pipelines to prevent future spills.
  • We demand that the Dutch court hold Shell fully responsible for the damage it has caused in Nigeria because all of the relevant decisions are made in its headquarters in The Hague. We do not accept Shell’s attempts to blame its Nigerian subsidiary for the oil spills.

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Companies are liable for the damage they cause in other countries too

The farmers and Milieudefensie believe Shell should be held liable for the damage caused by the oil spills. But Shell’s defence is to blame its Nigerian subsidiary and rebels, who, according to Shell,  regularly sabotage the pipelines. It is clear that action must be taken in Nigeria to save the livelihoods of these villagers.

Impacts of the lawsuit

What happens if the court rules that Shell is indeed liable for the oil spills and resulting damage in Nigeria? It could set a precedent and could possibly open the door to future lawsuits against Shell or other multinationals. This would allow other victims to seek justice and compensation in the Dutch courts.

Meanwhile, Nigerians have already appealed hundreds of times in their own courts to no avail. A corrupt judicial system ensures that no justice will be found there.

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This case can serve as an example

Victims of other multinationals can do the same. If they can’t get results in their own country, they would have the option of going to court in the country where the company has its headquarters.

Thousands of oil spills

This case only covers 3 of many thousands of other oil spills in Nigeria alone. The spills covered by this lawsuit occurred years ago in the villages of Goi, Oruma and Ikot Ada Udo. So long ago that 2 of the original plaintiffs, Alali Efanga and Chief Barizaa Dooh of Goi, have passed away since the original spills. Eric, Chief Barizaa’s son, has replaced his father and has vowed to continue the fight. His ultimate hope is to finally get justice for his father.

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The devastated villages

Goi is pretty much a ghost town now; very few of the villagers have remained. This is a result of the oil spills. The stench that hangs over the area is unbearable. The drinking water is polluted. The fish have died and the water is so polluted that nothing will grow in or near it.

Oil continues to spill across the land here. Shell has neither bothered to upgrade its rusting pipelines nor ever sought to increase security around the pipelines to protect them from oil thieves.

More information

The Nigerian plaintiffs and Milieudefensie are represented by the law offices of Prakken d'Oliveira, an international human rights law firm that champions the rights of individuals and represents human rights cases. Are you a journalist and do you want more information on the court case?  Reach out to us via   service@milieudefensie.nl.

Our lawsuit against Shell

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