After 13 years of legal tussle, a Dutch court ruled on Friday that oil company Royal Dutch Shell must compensate farmers in Nigeria for oil spills that occurred years ago.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Shell’s Nigerian branch must pay for spills in the Niger River Delta between 2004 and 2007, which spurred a civil case from four farmers (two of which are now dead) that lasted for 13 years.
The farmers sought compensation and cleanup over pollution that resulted from leaky oil pipelines.
The appellate court said Friday that Shell is liable for damages and also must install new equipment to prevent future problems.
“Oil supply in the leaky pipe could have been shut down earlier if a leak detection system had been present,” the Court of Appeals wrote.
The amount Shell must pay to the farmers will be determined at a later hearing.
The farmers said the spills cost them their livelihoods. Shell argued that the oil leaks were caused by sabotage and locals stealing oil, but the court noted in its decision that no evidence of sabotage was found.
A lower court decided in 2013 that only one of the farmers was entitled to compensation.
In a press statement issued on Thursday, Chima Williams of Friends of the Earth Nigeria (Environmental Rights Action) noted that today’s decision will determine whether or not transnational companies will be obliged to respond in a swift and positive way when environmental complaints are made from their host country.
“This case has taken so long that two claimants are no longer alive. But the problems caused by the immense oil spill from Shell’s pipelines have still not been resolved after 13 years. It hurts that this can happen. The court has an opportunity today to set a new standard that will give hope to ordinary citizens that no matter how powerful a company is, there will always be a day of reckoning,” he said.
Source UPI with additional reporting by extractive360