Four Nigerian villagers have dragged Royal Dutch Shell to court Thursday in a landmark pollution case that campaigners said could open the door to more compensation claims against international companies.
The fishermen and farmers, together with the Friends of the Earth campaign group, accused the oil major of polluting land and waterways around their homes in the Niger Delta region, Reuters reported.
Shell Petroleum Development Co (SPDC) is the largest oil and gas company in Nigeria, with production capacity of more than one million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
It has denied responsibility, saying the leaks were caused by sabotage.
The villagers launched their claim in a civil court in The Hague, where Shell has its joint global headquarters.
It was the first time a Dutch-registered company had been sued in a Dutch court for offences allegedly carried out by a foreign subsidiary.
Friends of the Earth said the claim, if successful, could open up a new way for plaintiffs to take on multinationals – by suing their parent companies in their home countries. The villagers, who appeared in court, want unspecified damages, saying Shell and other corporations were responsible for pollution from three oil spills between 2004 and 2007.
“My community is a ghost land as a result of the devastation. We had good vegetation. Today people have respiratory problems and are getting sick,” said one of the plaintiffs Eric Dooh, from the Goi community, which lives between two pipelines.
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