Dutch Supreme Court to rule on Shell's part in Nigerian oil spills

Dutch Supreme Court to rule on Shell's part in Nigerian oil spills


Amsterdam, 4 May 2021 - The Dutch Supreme Court must consider the case of Friends of the Netherlands (Milieudefensie) and four Nigerians against Shell. The oil giant has appealed against an earlier ruling requiring the company to take measures for a quicker response to oil spills in Nigeria.


Shell does not object to the jurisdiction of the Dutch court to rule on oil spills in Nigeria, nor to the obligation to compensate Nigerians for the damage. Donald Pols, director of  Milieudefensie: “It is great news that Shell accepts its loss in these matters. However, Shell seeks to be rid of the only element that might actually improve the situation in Nigeria in the long term: the installation of leak detection systems in its pipelines.


'Shell headquarters also negligent'

In anticipation of Shell's cassation appeal, Milieudefensie and the Nigerian co-plaintiffs also submitted a matter to the Supreme Court. According to the plaintiffs it is not only the Nigerian subsidiary, but also Shell's headquarters that is to blame for the oil spills.

Channa Samkalden, the attorney of Milieudefensie: “According to the court, Shell's headquarters has a duty of care for installing leak detection systems, but only Shell Nigeria is liable for the damage; Milieudefensie believes that the headquarters was also negligent in the occurrence of leaks.

If the Supreme Court adopts this view, Shell's headquarters will also be responsible for compensating the damage. This will make it easier for victims to enforce compensation in the Netherlands.

In January Shell was convicted for oil spills in Nigeria

On January 29, the Dutch Court of Appeal ordered Shell to pay compensation to three of the four Nigerians who filed the case together with Milieudefensie. In addition, the Court ruled that, apart from Shell Nigeria, Royal Dutch Shell had also violated its duty of care by not installing a leak detection system in the pipeline. With such a system, Shell could have stopped the leaks earlier and significantly limited the damage.

The court ruling in January received a lot of international attention: never before had a Dutch multinational been convicted of environmental damage abroad. This ruling may inspire people worldwide to sue companies that have polluted their environment.


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