BENIN â€” A LEGAL suit instituted against the Anglo-Dutch multinational oil company, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) by four farmers in Nigeria came up for hearing, yesterday, in the Hague, The Netherlands.
According to findings by Vanguard, this is the first time in history that a Dutch company had been brought to trial before a Dutch court for damages occurring abroad.
The plaintiffs in the suit are Nigerian farmers and fishermen who lost their livelihoods after a leakage of crude oil from Shell pipelines streamed over their fields and fishing ponds.
The farmers are claiming compensation from the Dutch multinational, even as they want Shell to clean up the oil, so they could fish and farm again.
The four victims, who are from three Nigerian villages in the Niger Delta, have sub-poenaed both Shellsâ€™ subsidiary in Nigeria and the Dutch headquarters of the company.
The plaintiffs in the suit alleged that as a result of Shellâ€™s negligence, their agricultural lands had been devastated, sources of drinking water polluted, fish ponds made unusable and the environment and health of local people harmed.
Shell denied responsibility and contended that the Dutch court had no jurisdiction over its Nigerian subsidiary.
However, at Shellâ€™s request, the court will first address the question of whether Shell Nigeria can be called to account before the Dutch court, before looking into the issue of whether Shellâ€™s parent company was liable for the pollution in Nigeria. The oil concern also disputed that.
Barrister Chima Williams of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), who is in the Netherlands on behalf of the victims in Nigeria, said,Â Â Â â€œthese people have tried in many ways to get Shell to clean up the mess, but they have got nowhere. Now, as a last resort, they are trying to obtain justice in the Netherlands.â€
Representatives of the Nigerian community in the Netherlands have announ-ced that they will organise a demonstration in solidarity with the four Nigerian farmers in front of the courthouse during the legal proceedings.