, THE HAGUE, Jan 28 – A Dutch court will decide on Wednesday whether Shell should clean up oil damage that destroyed a group of Nigerian farmers’ land, a case that could set a precedent for global environmental responsibility.
Thousands of kilometres from their homes in the Niger delta, four Nigerian farmers and fishermen have dragged the Anglo-Dutch oil giant into court in a civil suit that could open the door for hundreds of similar cases. The plaintiffs are backed by environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth.
Dutch judge Henk Wien will hand down a verdict at 10am (0900 GMT) at a public hearing before The Hague district court in a case that was first filed in 2008.
It is the first time a Dutch company is being sued in the Netherlands over damage in another country, in this case oil pollution in 2005.
The farmers want Royal Dutch Shell to clean up the mess, repair and maintain defective pipelines to prevent further damage, and pay out compensation.
In a landmark ruling, the Dutch judiciary in 2009 declared itself competent to try the case despite protests from Shell that its Nigerian subsidiary was solely legally responsible for any damage.
Oil pollution has ravaged large swathes of the Niger Delta, situated in the southeast of the world’s eighth-largest oil producer, which exports nearly two million barrels a day.
Shell, the biggest producer in the west African nation where it has been drilling for the last half-a-century, denied responsibility.
The company pinned oil spills between 2004 and 2007 on illegal theft and sabotage.