4 Nigerian Farmers Cleared to Sue Shell Over Oil Spills in Landmark Court Ruling

Four Nigerian farmers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands welcome today’s ruling by the Court of Appeals in The Hague allowing them to jointly sue Shell in the Netherlands for causing extensive oil spills in Nigeria.

The ruling is unique and can pave the way for victims of environmental pollution and human rights abuses worldwide to turn to the Netherlands for legal redress when a Dutch company is involved. In addition to competence question, the court also ruled in favor of Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the Nigerian farmers regarding the issue of access to internal company documents, Shell must give access to internal company documents.

"Today's ruling is a landslide victory for environmentalists and these four brave Nigerian farmers who, for more than seven years, have had the courage to take on one of the most powerful companies in the world," Geert Ritsema, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said. "This ruling is a ray of hope for other victims of environmental degradation, human rights violations and other misconduct by large corporations."

Alali Efanga is one of the Nigerian farmers who, along with Friends of the Earth, brought the case against Shell. "This ruling offers hope that Shell will finally begin to restore the soil around my village so that I will once again be able to take up farming and fishing on my own land," Efanga said.

“This is in every respect a landmark case," Channa Samkalden, legal counsel for Friends of the Earth and the Nigerian farmers, said.

Shell Forced to Disclose Internal Documents

The Court of The Hague ruled in favor of the farmers and Milieudefensie on all procedural issues in the case, which has dragged on for more than seven years because of various legal obstacles raised by Shell which seriously delayed proceedings. Amongst other things, the court ruled in favor of Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the Nigerian farmers regarding the issue of access to internal company documents, which a lower court had earlier denied.

"This is the first time in legal history that access to internal company documents was obtained in court," Samkalden said. "An appropriate ruling, because these documents may contain important corroborating evidence regarding the oil spills caused by Shell affecting these farmers’ land and fishing ponds. This finally allows the case to be considered on its merits.”

The Case

In 2008, four Nigerian citizens—Friday Alfred Akpan from Ikot Ada Udo, Eric Dooh from Goi and Alali Efanga en Fidelis Oguru from Oruma—together with Friends of the Earth Netherlands took Shell to court over oil spills that had polluted their fields and their fish farming ponds. Once proud owners of flourishing farms, they were now reduced to poverty and forced to survive on odd jobs, because the oil spills were never properly cleaned up and their land and fish ponds remain unusable to this day.

The plaintiffs demand that Shell cleans up the oil spills, compensates them for their losses and prevents new leakages by ensuring that the company’s pipelines are properly maintained and patrolled. Friends of the Earth Netherlands is a co-plaintiff.

In January 2013, the courts in The Hague ruled that Shell was guilty of causing pollution on the land of Friday Alfred Akpan. Shell appealed this decision, while Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the Nigerians appealed the rejection of the demands of the remaining three farmers.

Nigerian Oil Spill

The case of the four Nigerian farmers is only the tip of the iceberg. For decades, Nigeria has been the stage of the largest oil spill on Earth. Over the years, an amount of oil double to that of the sinking of the Deep Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 has leaked into the environment. A 2011 report published by United Nations Environment Programme shows Shell doing far too little to clean up the leaked oil.


African Catholic Groups Call on Pope Francis to Support Divestment From Fossil Fuels Movement

Exxon Warns Climate Inaction Risks Warming Far Beyond 2 Degrees

21 Teens Tell Exxon and Koch Brothers: Get Out of Our Lawsuit

4 Ways Exxon Stopped Action on Climate Change

Show Comments ()
Solar shade canopies. University of Hawaii

This College Could Become the First 100% Renewable Campus in U.S.

As a growing number of U.S. cities make pledges towards 100 percent renewables, it's easy to forget that the entire state of Hawaii set this important benchmark three years ago when it mandated that all of its electricity must come from renewable sources no later than 2045.

To help the Aloha State meet this ambitious commitment, in 2015, the University of Hawaii (UH) and the Hawaiian Legislature set a collective goal for the university system to be "net-zero" by Jan. 1, 2035, which means the total amount of energy consumed is equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

Keep reading... Show less

Silver Nanoparticles in Clothing Wash Out, May Be Toxic

By Sukalyan Sengupta and Tabish Nawaz

Humans have known since ancient times that silver kills or stops the growth of many microorganisms. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used silver preparations for treating ulcers and healing wounds. Until the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver (tiny particles suspended in a liquid) was a mainstay for treating burns, infected wounds and ulcers. Silver is still used today in wound dressings, in creams and as a coating on medical devices.

Keep reading... Show less
4.4 million premature air pollution deaths could be avoided in Kolkata if emissions are reduced swiftly this century. M M / CC BY-SA 2.0

Study Finds Timely Emissions Reductions Could Prevent 153 Million Air Pollution Deaths This Century

One of the roadblocks to swift action on climate change is the human brain's tendency to focus on threats and stimuli that are an obvious and noticeable part of their everyday lives, rather than an abstract and future problem, as Amit Dhir explained in The Decision Lab.

Now, a study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that acting quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions would also reduce the air pollution that is already a major urban killer, thereby saving millions of lives within the next 40 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Lands threatened by BLM's March 2018 sale include Hatch Point. Neal Clark / SUWA

Trump Administration Sells Oil and Gas Leases Near Utah National Monuments

The Interior Department on Tuesday is auctioning off 32 parcels of public lands in southeastern Utah for oil and gas development.

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) lease sale includes more than 51,000 acres of land near Bears Ears—the national monument significantly scaled back by the Trump administration last year—as well as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.

Keep reading... Show less
Katharine Hayhoe talks climate communication hacks at the Natural Products Expo West Convention. Climate Collaborative

Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate Change

By Katie O'Reilly

Katharine Hayhoe isn't your typical atmospheric scientist. Throughout her career, the evangelical Christian and daughter of missionaries has had to convince many (including her pastor husband) that science and religion need not be at odds when it comes to climate change. Hayhoe, who directs Texas Tech's University's Climate Science Center, is CEO of ATMOS Research, a scientific consulting company, and produces the PBS Kids' web series Global Weirding, rose to national prominence in early 2012 after then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dropped her chapter from a book he was editing about the environment. The reason? Hayhoe's arguments affirmed that climate change was no liberal hoax. The Toronto native attracted the fury of Rush Limbaugh, who encouraged his listeners to harass her.

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Tide NA / Twitter

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Protest Grows: Arrests Include a Greenpeace Founder, Juno-Nominated Grandfather

By Andy Rowell

Just because you get older, it doesn't mean you cannot stop taking action for what you believe in. And Monday was a case in point. Two seventy-year-olds, still putting their bodies on the line for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Early Monday morning, the first seventy-year-old, a grandfather of two, and former nominee for Canada's Juno musical award, slipped into Kinder Morgan's compound at one of its sites for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and scaled a tree and then erected a mid-air platform with a hammock up in the air.

Keep reading... Show less

The Grapes of Trash

By Marlene Cimons

German monk and theologian Martin Luther probably said it best: "Beer is made by men, wine by God." It's true—the world loves its wine. Americans, in fact, downed close to a billion gallons of it in 2016. But winemakers create a lot of waste when they produce all that vino, most of it in seeds, stalks and skins.

Keep reading... Show less

Why Mike Pompeo Could Be Even Worse for the Environment Than Rex Tillerson

By Kelle Louaillier

As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was one of the most blatant revolving-door cases in the Trump administration and a clear sign that Trump's government was of, by and for the fossil fuel industry. But make no mistake: Mike Pompeo could be far worse.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!