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Incident caused by sabotage: Shell expresses disappointment over Dutch court ruling

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has said that it is disappointed by the ruling of a Dutch Court of Appeal in favour of four Bayelsa farmers affected by oil spillage. The company insisted that the incident in question was caused by sabotage.

Osagie Okunbor
Mr. Osagie Okunbor, Managing Director, The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and Country Chair of Shell Companies in Nigeria

The Dutch court on Friday, January 29, 2021 ordered the Nigerian subsidiary of Shell to pay compensation over oil spillage in Bayelsa State.

The Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that the Nigerian arm of the British-Dutch company should compensate the four farmers and undertake a clean-up of pollution from leaking oil pipelines.

Four farmers from Oruma in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa dragged Shell to a Dutch court over a 2008 oil spillage that adversely affected their farms.

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Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, Media Relations Manager of SPDC, said on Friday that most leaks from its operations were caused by vandals.

“We continue to believe that the spills in Oruma and Goi were the result of sabotage.

“We are therefore disappointed that this court has made a different finding on the cause of these spills and in its finding that SPDC is liable.

“Sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining are a major challenge in the Niger Delta.

“Indeed in 2019, around 95 per cent of spill incidents from our operations there were due to such criminal acts.

“Regardless of cause, we clean up and remediate, as we have done with the spills in this case.

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“SPDC also works with a range of stakeholders to find solutions to these complex issues.

“Like all Shell-operated ventures globally, we are committed to operating safely and protecting the local environment,” Odugbesan said.

The exact amount of compensation has not been determined, while Shell can still appeal against the ruling.

In a reaction to the ruling, Mr Chima Williams, Acting Executive Director at Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), said it was a relief to the environmental rights movement .

“Today’s decisions 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.

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“This case has taken so long that two of the 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 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.

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