Q&A: Dutch ruling will hold Shell accountable to oil communities

18th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

The ruling by a Dutch appeals court on Friday that four Nigerian farmers may take their case against oil giant Shell to a judge in the Netherlands will have far-reaching implications for future cases involving multinationals.

The four farmers and fishermen, backed by the Dutch branch of environmental group Friends of the Earth, first filed the case in 2008 against the Anglo-Dutch company in a court thousands of kilometres from their homes.

They want Shell to clean up devastating oil spills in four heavily-polluted villages in the west African country's oil-rich Niger Delta, prevent further spills and pay compensation.

The following is a series of questions and answers with Godwin Ojo of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), a Port-Harcourt-based environmental rights group, on what the ruling means for Shell and its host communities in Nigeria.

What are the consequences of this Shell ruling?

We are pleased with this ruling because it will open the floodgate to other suits.

It will now make Shell socially responsible for the impacts of its operation in the Niger delta.

It will compel them to pay compensation and take the issue of environmental degradation and neglect seriously.

How has Shell hurt the population?

It's unfortunate that Shell's operation in the last 50 years in Nigeria has devastated the environment.

The company has not paid adequate compensation to the affected Bodo community.

The Bodo villagers have been short-changed. Even the cleanup of the communities has not begun.

What do the farmers want?

The farmers want Shell to clean up devastating oil spills in their polluted villages, prevent further spills and pay compensation.

Has any clean up started?

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) recommended an immediate clean up of Ogoniland since 2011, but nothing has been done so far.

It was only in August this year that the new government of President Mhammadu Buhari said it would provide 10 million dollars to start the clean up of Ogoniland.

This is an insignificant sum, representing less than one percent of the one billion dollars recommended by UNEP.

More worrisome is the fact that six months down the line, no clean up has started while the people continue to suffer the negative impacts of Shell operations.

How do Nigerians feel about Shell?

Shell is liable for the spills. Shell has always blamed third-party interference for oil spills and pollution in the Niger delta.

There is no doubt some of the spills could been as a result of sabotage, theft and pipeline vandalism, but the bulk is through operational factors.

Shell should be made to account. There should be no discrimination in the way Shell is responding to spills around the world.

Whether in London, Netherlands or Nigeria, Shell should treat its host communities well and respond promptly and adequately to their problems.


© 2015 AFP

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