Niger Delta Oil Spill: Shell is Guilty, Says Dutch Appeals Court

The Appeals Court in The Netherlands, sitting at The Hague today ruled that Shell was responsible for oil spillage that devastated areas of the Niger Delta in Nigeria.

The Dutch court found the Nigerian subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell guilty of the pipeline spills and must therefore pay compensation to farmers for the spillage.

A lower court had ruled in 2013 that Shell Nigeria was to blame for the oil pollution but Shell appealed. Today’s appeal decision even went a step further than the 2013 ruling by saying that Shell should be held accountable for several cases of oil pollution and should pay the Niger Delta farmers and landowners.

The case has been on since 2008 and it is feared that today’s ruling could lead to other cases against the British-Dutch multinational oil firm which has its headquarters in The Hague..

Four Nigerian farmers had taken Shell to court, seeking compensation, and a cleanup, from the company over oil pollution caused by leakage from the company’s pipelines.

The case was brought in 2008 by the farmers, with the advocacy group, ‘Friends of the Earth’, seeking reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta for spillages between 2004 and 2007.

In court, Shell’s lawyers argued that vandals were responsible for leakages in underground oil pipelines that have polluted the area and denied responsibility. The company also refused to be held legally liable in The Netherlands for the actions of its subsidiary in another country, this time, Nigeria.

The Appeals Court said today that it was sentencing Shell Nigeria for the action so that it will compensate the farmers for damages. In addition, the court held that the parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, was also liable to install equipment to prevent future damage to the environment.

The full compensation and mode of payment was not specified.

Cases of oil spills and environmental degradation are as old as Nigeria as a country. A UNDP report states that there have been a total of 6,817 oil spills between 1976 and 2001, which account for a loss of three million barrels of oil, out of which more than 70% was not recovered. 69% of these spills are reported to have occurred off-shore, a quarter in swamps and about 6% on land.


Over 40 million litres of crude oil is said to be spilled annually, resulting in human deaths and damage to the local ecosystem.

A report by Amnesty International blamed spills in the Niger Delta on pipeline corrosion, maintenance issues, equipment failure, sabotage and theft.

Shell’s oil extraction activities have been challenged in Court by several Nigerian communities who have sought to use the state and its judicial instruments to demand justice from the oil company. Many communities have reportedly been disappointed by the local legal processes, including lengthy delays and the Court’s perceived favoritism for the oil company.

Today’s ruling may just have brought some relief and hope because there are several other cases pending against Shell, including a 2012 case by Bodo Community which was filed in London.



One Comment on “Niger Delta Oil Spill: Shell is Guilty, Says Dutch Appeals Court”

  1. Thanks to this judgement, however, the so called leaders of these communities have consistently been unfair to their people ,these leaders have benefited at the expense of their people, their lands,they have improvished their people, they have joy in living in Abuja, leaving their communities with no infrastructural development, even as little as no clean, portable water to drink even though they are surrounded with water.
    I rejoice with these lucky farmers believing that, what is due to them ,will get to them, knowing who we are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *