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ERA, Environmentalists commend Dutch Appeals Court judgment against Shell Nigeria

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Amaechi Okonkwo, Port Harcourt.

The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria REA/FoEN and environmental rights activists in the Niger Delta have lauded the judgment of a Netherlands Appeals Court indicting Shell Nigeria for some oil spills in the Niger Delta region.

ERA/FoEN described the judgment as historic with the Acting Executive Director, ERA/ FoEN, Chima Williams reacting to the court judgment in Port Harcourt said the judgment has vindicated the petitioners made up of four farmers in two communities of Bayelsa and Rivers States.

“The Judgment of yesterday is a wakeup call for us that have been involved in the case from the scratch”, he said pointing out that it evoked emotions for him as the lawyer to the farmers.

“The first time was that we created history when the lower cut in The Hague accepted jurisdiction because that was bthe first challenge, whether a court in The Hague have jurisdiction over a matter that arose outside the Netherlands against Shell in The Hague, that we passed through in 2010”, he added.

Williams explained that besides the court ruling that Shell to pays compensation to these victims from the two communities the court also charged Shell to ensure that no further spill occurred in the communities.

“The journey started way back 2008, and today we are having a judgment from the Court of Appeal Netherland. And you recall that sometime ago around 2012 or thereabout the lower court in The Hague delivered a judgment that denied the communities of Oruma and Goi of their pleas in the high court in the Netherland. And the same high court upheld our claims in favour of Ikot Aba Ido in Akwa Ibom state.

Today history has been made that the Court of Appeal in the Netherland has upturned the ruling of the judgment of the high court against Oruma and Goi. The court has held Shell liable for the destruction caused in Oruma community of Bayelsa State and Goi community in Rivers State for the destruction caused by their oil spill that polluted citizens farmlands and fishponds, etc that destroyed their source of livelihoods.

“The court has held Shell liable and accountable and has ordered shell to pay compensation to these communities for the destruction caused. Of course these communities were represented in this case by the victims who owned the fish ponds, farm lands and other economic sustaining livelihood ventures.

He describes the judgment as restoration of hope to the people of Niger Delta who have been under the jackboot of the destruction of multinational oil companies in their communities that have sort redress and have not got adequate redress in terms of declaration of how multinationals should behave in terms of protecting and defending their environment”

Also speaking, Kentebe Eberiado, Coordinator Oil Watch for ERA said the argument by Shell that sabotage was responsible for oil in the Niger Delta was baseless.

He said; “In trying to make a defense for themselves (Shell) will always put up a story, in the court in the Netherlands they looked at the facts that we put before them, they also looked at issues on ground and the fact that there was also a report that sometime ago were it was alleged that Shell staff were directly involved in vadalisation of pipelines for contract purposes.

“If you also look at the narratives in the Niger Delta, pipelines have not been changed in the past 40-50 years. So you don’t expect those pipelines that take liquids through them on daily bases to remain the same after 40-50 years. Again what is Shell’s response to pollution?

On his part an environmentalist, Celestine Akpobarie also lauded the judgment saying that Shell has done more harm than good to host communities in the Niger Delta.

“I feel very happy, especially as an Ogoni man and I say this because Ken Saro-Wiwa predicted this. He said ‘one day Shell will be in the duck and that that day is coming’. We have the opportunity to see that happen over and over again. The havoc they have done to the people, livelihood and the environment of the Niger Delta people are gradually being exposed. I am also happy that this is happening in Shell home country, their very home country”.

He insisted that the Ogonis are not interested in resumption of oil exploration in the area saying; “this has nothing to do with the resumption of oil operation, this basically has to do with the past. They polluted our environment, so they are asked to compensate and clean up.

Akpobarie stated; “That’s what just has happened, as for resumption of oil operations, I don’t think in our life time that there will be resumption of oil operation in Ogoniland, I don’t think so, because there are basically nothing to show for oil. Everything that oil has given to Ogoni people has been death, death of persons, death of the environment, death of livelihoods, death of even the air that we breathe”.

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