A civil claim was filed in court in The Hague, where the global headquarters for Shell are located, against the company for polluting waterways and land near the homes of four fishermen and farmers in the Niger Region of Africa. Shell continues to deny the accusations, claiming that the leaks came about because of sabotage, according to a news report from Reuters.
The claim was also filed by Friends of the Earth. The damages requested in the lawsuit were not disclosed but the villagers said that Shell and other companies are responsible for pollution between the years of 2004 to 2007 as a result of oil spills.
“My community is a ghost land as a result of the devastation. We had good vegetation. Today people have respiratory problems and are getting sick,” said plaintiff Eric Dooh. Dooh resides in the Goi community, which is in the middle of two pipelines.
“Shell is aware of the whole devastation. I want them to pay compensation, to clean up the pollution so we can grow our crops and fish again,” Dooh said.
According to Shell, thieves caused pollution when they broke into the pipelines to steal the oil. The company also claims that it has done enough in the cleanup efforts.
“The matter has been resolved as far as we are concerned and we do not properly understand why Friends of the Earth has submitted the case,” Allard Castelein, Shell’s vice president for environment, said. Castelein went on to say that thieves in the Niger Delta steal oil from Shell installations, totaling 150,000 stolen barrels per day.
“It opens up a range of possibilities for people from poor countries to use the legal system to seek compensation from companies,” said Geert Ritsema, international affairs coordinator for Friends of the Earth.
Channa Samkalden, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said, “It was insufficient maintenance, not sabotage, that was responsible for the leaks … Shell did not operate as a conscientious oil company.”
In 2011, the United Nations released a report that said multinational oil companies and the government, including Shell, caused 50 years worth of oil pollution that hurt the Ogoniland region, which includes the Niger Delta. In Nigeria, Shell Petroleum Development Co (SPDC), is the largest gas and oil company. The company produces over 1 million barrels of oil equivalent each day. The verdict for the case is expected to come not long after the turn of the new year from the judges presiding over the case.