Shell lawsuit (re oil pollution in Nigeria)

Shell oil spill Nigeria via Royal Times NigeriaThe plaintiffs filed three separate lawsuits, each one addressing the impact of oil spillages in the three villages – Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo.  The Oruma lawsuit claims that oil spillages occurred on 26 June 2005 and that Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (“Shell Nigeria”) (Shell’s Nigerian operating company) only closed the hole in the pipeline on 29 June 2005.  Allegedly, the oil flowed into plaintiffs’ farmland and fishponds, polluting it and making it unfit for use.  The plaintiffs further claim that the clean-up started in November 2005 and that neither the environment near Oruma nor their oil-polluted property has been adequately cleaned by Shell Nigeria.  With regard to the allegations of negligence, the suit argues that Shell Nigeria acted negligently by allowing the oil spill to occur, or at least it did not prevent or limit it, and did not adequately clear the oil.  Plaintiffs also allege that Shell plc (the parent company) was negligent because it did not ensure that its subsidiary carried out oil production in Nigeria in a careful manner, although it was able and obligated to do so.  The other two lawsuits make similar claims regarding oil spillages in Goi and Ikot Ada Udo. 

On 13 May 2009 Shell submitted a motion to the court arguing that the Dutch courts lacked jurisdiction over the actions of the Nigerian subsidiary. On 8 July 2009 the plaintiffs filed their Statement of Defence to the Motion Contesting Jurisdiction at the Hague district court. On 30 December 2009, the Hague district court ruled that it did have jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ case. On 24 March 2010, former Shell Transport and Trading Company and Dutch Shell Petroleum N.V. (Shell’s Dutch subsidiary) were added as defendants after Shell argued that it cannot be held responsible for actions of its predecessors. Lawyers for the plaintiffs requested the defendants to disclose relevant internal documents. On 16 June 2010, Shell denied plaintiffs’ request for disclosure of internal documents, stating it cannot be forced to and is not able to provide them. Shell appeared in court to respond to the plaintiffs' allegations in October 2012. On 30 January 2013 the Dutch court issued a decision ordering Shell to pay compensation to one of the farmers, but it dismissed the balance of the claims.  In December 2015, a Dutch appeals court reversed its dismissal and permitted the balance of the claims to go forward.  The appeals court also ruled that Shell must grant the claimants access to certain internal company documents essential to the case.

- "Dutch appeals court says Shell may be held liable for oil spills in Nigeria", Reuters, 18 Dec 2015
- "Dutch court says Shell partly responsible for Nigeria spills", Ivana Sekularac & Anthony Deutsch, Reuters, 30 Jan 2013
- "Nigerian villagers sue Shell in landmark pollution case", Ivana Sekularac & Anthony Deutsch, Reuters, 11 Oct 2012
- "Pollution: Dutch court to hear Nigerians suit against Shell", Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, ThisDay [Nigeria] 2 Oct 2012
- [video] "Fight continues for Nigeria oil spill victims", Al Jazeera English, 8 Jun 2010
- “Shell must face Friends of the Earth Nigeria claim in Netherlands”, Terry Macalister, Guardian [UK], 30 Dec 2009
- [video] "Dutch court takes on Shell oil case", Reuters, 30 Dec 2009 
- “Farmers sue Shell over oil spills in Niger Delta”, Sarah Arnott, Independent [UK], 3 Dec 2009
- [Dutch, PDF] "The people of Nigeria versus Shell: De eerste zitting van de rechtszaak", Friends of the Earth Netherlands/Milieudefensie, Dec 2009
- “Shell Sued in the Netherlands For Oil Spills in Nigeria”,, 11 Sep 2008 

Doing business in Nigeria: challenges and questions
Preventing spills
- Shell Nigeria: Remediation Issues in the Niger Delta

Friends of the Earth Netherlands/Milieudefensie [plaintiffs]:
- Outcome appeals against Shell: victory for the Nigerian people and the environment, 18 Dec 2015
- [PDF] Factsheet: The people of Nigeria versus Shell, Apr 2011 
The People of Nigeria versus Shell 
Documents on Shell legal case
Nigerians file oil lawsuit against Shell in the Netherlands, 5 Nov 2008

Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth Nigeria:
Press Release-Shell faces legal action over Nigerian Pollution, 15 May 2008

- [PDF] Friday Alfred Akpan v Shell, District Court of the Hague, 30 Jan 2013
- [PDF] Fidelis Ayoro Oguru v Shell plc, District Court of the Hague, 14 Sep 2011 [Judgment in ancillary actions]
- [PDF, English translation] Oguru and Ofanga v Shell plc, Summons

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1 November 2013

[PDF] Briefing note - Africa Oil Week 2013: Oil & gas industry must improve its respect for human rights

Author: Aliou Diouf, Joseph Kibugu, Nokukhanya Mncwabe, Julia Mello Neiva, Gregory Regaignon - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

The oil & gas industry has a vital role to play in Africa’s development. But too often exploration and extraction are linked to human rights abuses against local residents, oil & gas revenues prop up repressive governments, and the promise of poverty alleviation is squandered...This briefing, on the occasion of Africa Oil Week, focuses on three key areas identified by African civil society as needing urgent and transformative action to ensure the oil industry serves the common good and inclusive development, rather than causing enrichment of a few and abuses of the rights of many: 1. Community impacts: rights to water, food, health & land. 2. Violence linked to the oil industry. 3. Transparency of revenues and contracts & contribution of revenues to the fulfilment of social & economic rights. [refers to Addax Petroleum (part of Sinopec), Agip (part of Eni), Chevron, CNPC, ExxonMobil, Marathon, Shell, Swala Oil & Gas, Talisman Energy, Tullow Oil]

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1 October 2013

[PDF] Digging deep corporate liability

Author: Lucie Greyl (CDCA) & Godwin Uyi Ojo (ERA/FoEN), for EJOLT

The impacts provoked by the expanding oil industry encompass environmental destruction, health impacts and violations of human rights. The increasing contamination jeopardizes safe conditions of life and destroys means of livelihood of vulnerable communities and of those relying on healthy ecosystems. Local communities, feeling that they are simply sacrificed to the oil industry, see themselves involved in social conflict. They are experiencing forms of environmental discrimination and might even face criminalisation of the protest when they stand up to defend their rights...[T]he number of lawsuits demanding justice for environmental, social, economical and cultural damages provoked by oil companies are increasing as well as their media visibility. Yet most outcomes are not satisfactory in tackling impacted communities claims for justice. This paper describes the most recent trends regarding oil corporations’ responsibilities and use of procedural justice by civil society through the review of emblematic legal cases. [refers to Shell, Texaco, Chevron, BP, Eni, NNPC]

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19 September 2013

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin – Issue 10, Sep 2013

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Welcome to the 10th issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. To assist all those following corporate legal accountability issues, we send this bulletin to highlight key developments, new cases profiled on our site, updates to existing profiles, and other news. Our Corporate Legal Accountability Portal is an online information hub providing resources for non-lawyers as well as lawyers – including victims, advocates, NGOs, businesspeople, lawyers bringing lawsuits against companies and lawyers defending companies. The portal provides impartial, concise information about lawsuits against companies in which human rights abuses are alleged – its aim is to demystify these lawsuits. Each case profile includes materials from both the plaintiffs and defendants, to the extent they are available…This bulletin is now available in Spanish and French. [Refers to African Barrick Gold, Alstom, BP, CACI, Chevron, Coca-Cola, COMILOG (part of ERAMET), Daimler, Danzer, Dow Chemical, Drummond, ERAMET, Ford, HudBay Minerals, IBM, KBR, Ledesma, Mercedes-Benz (part of Daimler), Monterrico Metals, Nestlé, PA Child Care, Qosmos, Rio Tinto, Shell, Sinter Metal, SNCF, Texaco (part of Chevron), Thomson Safaris, Total, Union Carbide (part of Dow), Vedanta Resources, Veolia (part of Veolia Environnement), Veolia Environnement, Walmart]

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6 September 2013

Shell seeks settlement for Nigeria oil spill

Author: Sarah Kent, Dow Jones Newswires

Negotiations between Royal Dutch Shell PLC and the lawyers representing 15,000 Nigerians claiming compensation for two oil spills that occurred in the Niger Delta in 2008 are set to begin…Shell is facing a lawsuit in London's High Court over the two spills that affected the environment surrounding the Bodo fishing community in the country's oil-rich Niger Delta five years ago. Shell's Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, has admitted liability for the spills, but the two sides disagree on the size of the spills and how much compensation is due…"We will…ensure that Shell pay out a fair amount for the damage they have caused and put the Bodo Creek back into its pre-spill state," said Martyn Day, the lawyer…representing the claimants…. A spokesman for Shell's SPDC said the company was hopeful an acceptable settlement could be reached next week. "...[O]ur goal now is resolution, not recrimination," he said.

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1 September 2013

Extractive industries and the challenges of implementing Voluntary Principles in Weak Governance Zones

Author: Vigeo

In South Africa during August 2012, Lonmin...experienced violent clashes between security forces and employees resulting in an estimated 44 deaths (mostly employees) and over a month of disruption to operations…[I]n May 2013, citing the company’s poor Human Rights record in Papua New Guinea and Tanzania as a factor, New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund removed USD 1.8m in investments from Barrick Gold (Mining NAM). Given the human cost and the publicity gained by these events, Vigeo has produced this Sustainability Focus to draw attention to the specific challenges, risks and opportunities that extractive companies face when seeking to secure their operations and the Human Rights of stakeholders in Weak Governance Zones (WGZ’s). This Sustainability Focus will draw attention specifically to challenges of implementing the Voluntary Principles on Security Forces and Human Rights (the VPs). [Also refers to AngloGold Ashanti, BHP Billiton, BP, Eni, Freeport-McMoRan, Norsk Hydro (part of Statoil), Shell, Statoil, Total, Tullow Oil]

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15 May 2013

The Global Lawyer: Kiobel's Continental Cousins

Author: Michael D. Goldhaber, Litigation Daily [USA]

On the first day of spring…I told a European audience in Paris why the law of U.S. corporate alien tort was about to wither. I expected to hear at the conference…about civil actions for corporate accountability taking root on the Continent. But I soon learned that Europe's fresh shoots are mostly in the soilbox of criminal law… My main takeaway from the Paris conference is that corporate accountability on the Continent seems more likely to be advanced through criminal than civil actions. Perhaps…it's because European criminal law can empower NGOs while keeping the safety screen of prosecutorial discretion. I learned that criminal cases are easier to win against executives than businesses… [refers to Alstom, Veolia, Amesys (part of Bull), Qosmos, Shell, Riwal, Danzer]

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2 May 2013

Friends of the Earth Netherlands appeal Shell case

Author: Xinhua [China]

Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Nigerian farmers from two different towns have submitted an appeal against an earlier court decision in the case against the Anglo-Dutch oil company Royal Dutch Shell operating in Nigeria…On Jan. 30, Shell was ordered to pay compensation to one Nigerian farmer for damages caused by oil pollution, a court in the Hague ruled…In this case, however, the court ruled that Shell headquarters in the Hague could not be held liable for the failures of its subsidiary, which is responsible for the daily management of Shell in Nigeria. "Friends of the Earth hopes that the court in the Hague will reverse its decision on this point. For us it is clear that the headquarters shares responsibility for the massive environmental damage in Nigeria," Friends of the Earth said in a statement…

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4 April 2013

Crude Justice & Ecocide in the Niger Delta

Author: Leah Temper, EJOLT Blog (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities & Trade)

We had been invited to the Niger Delta on a mission with EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), a European funded project that brings together scientists and activists to document ecological conflicts and to support communities in their struggle for justice and demand true accountability for corporations engaging in “ecocide”. The other reason for the visit was the 20th anniversary celebration of Nigeria’s leading environmental justice organization (and a member of the EJOLT project): Environmental Rights Action (ERA)…The celebration was bittersweet. Companies such as Shell continue to reap some of the highest profits of any corporation in the world in 2012 (some $28.6bn or about 2m an hour), at the cost of communities in the Niger Delta who have their meager livelihoods trodden over and destroyed without any recourse to justice.

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26 February 2013

Shell's Victory and Embarrassment in the Dutch Court

Author: Cees Van Dam, Huffington Post

In a historic decision, handed down on 30th January, the District Court in The Hague held Shell Nigeria liable for a case of serious oil pollution in Nigeria. The case was filed in 2008 by farmers and fishermen living in the Niger Delta who lost their livelihoods because of the oil spills. It is the first time a western court has ordered a multinational company to pay damages for environmental harm caused in a non-western country. This was possible because the claimants sued both Shell Nigeria and the Dutch based parent company Royal Dutch Shell, alleging they were jointly liable for the oil spills…In the end, the Court dismissed the claims against parent Royal Dutch Shell…Of the five claims against subsidiary Shell Nigeria, the Court rejected four.

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20 February 2013

Big Oil, human rights and sustainable development in Africa - Implications of SERAP vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria (ECOWAS Court) 2012

Author: Olivia Kokushubila Lwabukuna, Pambazuka News

This case represents a novel attempt by a regional tribunal to indirectly ensure that businesses carried out in Africa are socially conscious and responsible…With numerous recent mineral, oil and gas discoveries in various areas in Africa, it has become imperative that strict measures must be undertaken by governments and the necessary agencies to protect the well being of communities where extraction takes place. At the same time, this calls for the extraction industry to take responsibility for the communities within which they operate. The ECOWAS court seems to have taken a bold step in guaranteeing that where governments by omission fail to ensure compliance with international best practices…, then they bear the responsibility for harm and human rights violations resulting from actions of corporations. [Refers to Nigerian National Petroleum Company, Shell, ELF (part of Total), AGIP (part of Eni), Chevron & ExxonMobil]

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