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Dutch Court Opens Case filed by Niger Delta Farmers Against Shell Oil For Pollution Compensation

Dutch Court Opens Case filed by Niger Delta Farmers Against Shell Oil For Pollution Compensation 1
A historic suit against Royal Dutch Shell, filed by farmers and fisherman from the Niger Delta, goes before a court today in The Hague to settle a claim for damages caused by massive oil spills in the region. 
The four farmers and fishermen, and the Friends of the Earth environmental group, accuse the oil company of polluting land and waterways in three villages in the Niger Delta – Goi, Oruma and Ikot Ada Udo.
“If you are drinking water you are drinking crude, if you are eating fish, you are eating crude, if you are breathing, you are breathing crude,” one of the farmers from the Goi community, Eric Dooh, told reporters outside court.
“What I expect today is justice,” he added. “I expect that judges are going to proceed in this matter, have sympathy and look into our environment — tell Shell to apply the international standards where they are operating in Nigeria.”
“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 Dooh, who lives between 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,” the 44-year-old told Reuters before the hearing. The four seek unspecified compensation and argue they can no longer feed their families because of the pollution by oil from Shell’s pipelines and production facilities.

The case could set a precedent for damage claims against international companies.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC long argued that the case, which was launched in 2008, should be heard in Nigeria and still maintains the Dutch court should not have jurisdiction.
Lawyers for the Nigerians argue that key policy decisions by Shell are made at its headquarters in The Hague and that means the Dutch court can rule in the case.
“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, told Reuters before the hearing.
The biggest pollution problem in the Niger Delta, said Castelein, was caused by thieves who steal oil from Shell’s installations. Around 150,000 barrels of oil are stolen every day in the Delta. That is worth about $6 billion a year.
But Channa Samkalden, representing the four Nigerians, told the court Shell had failed to maintain pipelines, clean up leaks and prevent pollution.
“It was insufficient maintenance, not sabotage, that was responsible for the leaks … Shell did not operate as a conscientious oil company,” she said.
Three judges are expected to deliver their verdict on the Hague case in the new year.

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