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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23 February 2012

[PDF] Sherpa releases 46 ideas to foster transnational regulation

Author: SHERPA

Corporate Social Responsibility is still seen by many companies as a communication tool, rather than involving a real change to their strategy and aims. As scandals over corporate activities keep hitting the headlines, French organisation SHERPA acknowledges the failure of self-regulation and increases its efforts towards implementation of CSR. SHERPA‘s new book “Regulating transnational companies – 46 proposals”, released today, is a valuable contribution to the on-going debate...46 Proposals explains in non-technical terms the mechanisms giving rise to both corporate impunity and citizens’ suspicion of the globalized economy and financial markets. The objective is to contribute to the debate over corporate accountability and suggest concrete solutions. Legal tools are not meant to weigh multinational corporations down, but to help turn CSR into a reality.

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17 February 2012

Memorandum: Amnesty International’s concerns regarding Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta and the ongoing failure to respect human rights and the environment

Author: Amnesty Intl.

This memorandum outlines Amnesty International’s serious concerns about Shell’s impact on human rights and the environment in the Niger Delta, and the company’s failure to take adequate action to end damaging practices and redress decades of harm. Shell’s failures persist despite significant evidence based calls on the company to make meaningful changes in the way it operates in the Niger Delta. In 2011 the evidence confronting Shell was confirmed in a ground-breaking study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that looked at the impact of oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta. The UNEP report confirmed that serious environmental damage had occurred in Ogoniland, one area of the Niger Delta, over many years. It found systemic failures in Shell’s approach to cleaning up pollution and rehabilitating land, which have exposed tens of thousands of people to a sustained assault on their economic, social and cultural rights.

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1 January 2012

[PDF] Corporate Liability of Energy/Natural Resources Companies at National Law for Breach of International Human Rights Norms

Author: Oliver Salas

While there are established rules to invoke the liability of States for their breach of international law obligations, there is no equivalent to hold corporations liable for violating human rights norms...[T]he lack of obvious international remedies for human rights abuse committed by corporations, means that corporate activities remain largely governed by national law...The lack of specific fora to bring human rights claims against corporations also means that liability for breach of international human rights norms is essentially a matter for national courts to deal with...This paper evaluates the challenges posed to domestic judicial mechanisms to address corporate liability of NRCs for their alleged violation of international human rights norms. [refers to BP, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Occidental Petroleum, Rio Tinto, Talisman, Trafigura Beheer, Union Carbide, Unocal]

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31 August 2011

U.K. Shell Deal Spotlights Value of Common Law Model for Human Rights Litigation

Author: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer

Royal Dutch Shell has been sued so many times over its conduct in Nigeria that its cases offer a laboratory experiment for human rights litigation…[T]he "Bodo" case…emerged from obscurity three weeks ago. On Aug. 3, four months after farmers and fishermen from the village of Bodo filed a common law complaint in London high court, Shell's Nigerian subsidiary admitted liability for a pair of oil spills in return for the parent company's dismissal from the suit…[P]arental liability for the conduct of foreign subsidiaries has been called the leading legal question in European business human rights… [T]he common law model of corporate human rights accountability is starting to make the Alien Tort Statute look pretty weak by comparison. Bodo confirms that plaintiffs may have other options if the corporate alien tort hits a dead end. [also refers to Chevron, Monterrico Metals (part of Zijin), Trafigura, Unocal (part of Chevron)]

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11 August 2011

Supreme Court May Consider Whether Companies Can Be Sued Over Human Rights [USA]

Author: Lawrence Hurley, Greenwire blog, New York Times

Recent court rulings on the question of whether oil companies and other multinationals can be sued in U.S. courts for alleged human rights violations overseas has made the issue ripe for Supreme Court intervention...Although it is notoriously tough to predict whether the high court will take a case, the chances appear reasonably high in large part because there is a split within the federal appeals court on the issue. There is also the possibility that the court could pass on Kiobel but then take up one of the other cases at a later date. "Although it's not clear which of the individual cases the court will review, it seems to be virtually certain that the justices will take up this question within the next two terms," said Supreme Court expert Tom Goldstein of the Goldstein, Howe & Russell law firm...Attorneys for the corporate defendants dispute whether the 11th Circuit has really tackled the question head-on. They also have high hopes that the D.C. Circuit will reverse itself after the en banc rehearing...

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21 July 2011

[DOC] Money Valuation in a forensic context

Author: Joan Martinez-Alier for EJOLT Project, ICTA, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

What were the real costs of oil extracted in Ecuador by Texaco (now Chevron) between 1965 and 1990...[and] by Shell in the Niger Delta since the 1970s? Both companies are...involved in court cases where the costs are billions of dollars...[I]n the US...the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act...imposes retroactive obligations. Firms have to pay compensation for damages and they have to clean the pollution left behind...The increased social metabolism causes resource extraction conflicts, transport conflicts and waste disposal conflicts like those from water and oil pollution and gas flaring in Ecuador and Nigeria...Who is the owner of the atmosphere and the oceans as dumping places for carbon dioxide?....Will Chevron Texaco or at the end of the day a zero price for the pollution caused?

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1 July 2011

[PDF] Corporate Human Rights Violations and Private International Law - The Hinge Function and Conductivity of PIL in Implementing Human Rights in Civil Proceedings in Europe: a Facilitating Role for PIL or PIL as a Complicating Factor?

Author: Veerle Van Den Eeckhout, Leiden University and University of Antwerp

It is conceivable – and this is the central hypothesis of this contribution − that a non- European subsidiary of a European parent company has violated human rights outside Europe...and that the European parent company itself has been involved in that violation, too...Given...the hypothesis that plaintiffs want to bring an action before an EU Member State court – this exploration and analysis will be based on the European PIL [private international law] perspective...PIL can play a key role in the efforts to offer victims of human rights violations a real possibility of recovering damage suffered by them in civil proceedings against those who were actually involved in this violation...Care should be taken to ensure that PIL is not reduced to an instrument of power in the hands of the stronger party, who can use it in order to benefit even more from a situation of ‘competing norms'...

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7 March 2011

[PDF] Tort litigation against multinationals (“MNCs”) for violation of human rights: an overview of the position outside the US

Author: Richard Meeran, Leigh Day & Co

Over the past decade, the US Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”)…has generally been viewed as the mechanism with the most promising potential for holding MNCs to account for human rights violations in developing countries. In recent years, US public interest lawyers have been at the forefront of developing ATS cases where MNCs are alleged to have been complicit with states in such violations…However a majority decision of the US Second Circuit Courts of Appeals in September 2010…held that customary international human rights law does not recognise the liability of corporations, and consequently that MNCs cannot be liable under “ATS”…This issue may well be finally resolved by the Supreme Court…Consequently, at this point in time it would seem timely to consider the state of play with regard to the continued development of more conventional tort law remedies. These too have yielded considerable success over the past decade or so. [refers to Anglo American, Anvil Mining, BHP Billiton, BP, Cambior, Cape plc, Chevron, Gencor, Merck, Minera Majaz (part of Monterrico Metals), Monterrico Metals (part of Zijin), Rio Blanco (part of Monterrico Metals), Rio Tinto, Securitas, Shell, Thor Chemicals, Unocal (part of Chevron), Zijin]

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26 January 2011

NGOs, Shell lock horns over Nigerian oil spills

Author: AFP

Environmental groups accused Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell on Wednesday of destroying lives and the environment in the Niger Delta, and urged Dutch MPs to intervene as the company defended its record..."We consider that Shell is doing a good job often under difficult circumstances," Shell Netherlands president Peter de Wit replied, insisting the company applied "global standards" to its operations around the world...The groups accused Shell of hiding information and exaggerating the percentage of oil spills caused by sabotage...Sunny Ofehe [of the] Hope for Niger Delta Campaign...[said] " We have seen our environment destroyed by the oil companies trying to make profit. What we have today in the Niger Delta are swamps, polluted. Our major occupation, fishing and farming, has been taken away from us,"

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28 September 2010

[PDF] press release: "Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches online hub: 'Human rights impacts of oil pollution: U.S. Gulf Coast, Ecuador, Nigeria'"

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

The new portal impartially presents reports, articles and videos from all sides. What are the victims, advocates, companies and commentators saying? Are the abuses continuing? Are past abuses being addressed? Are steps being taken to prevent further spills? Do victims have effective remedies? What is the latest news about lawsuits and compensation claims?
The companies covered in the briefings are:
a) U.S. Gulf Coast: BP, Anadarko Petroleum, Cameron International, Halliburton, MOEX Offshore (part of Mitsui Oil Exploration), Nalco, Transocean
b) Ecuador: Chevron and Texaco (now owned by Chevron), Petroecuador
c) Nigeria: Shell, Chevron, Eni, ExxonMobil, Total, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)
Before launching the new portal, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited each of those companies to contribute any further information or statements they wished to send.

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