The Hague (AFP)

Dutch courts on Friday appealed against Shell to pay compensation in a long-standing lawsuit filed by four Nigerian farmers, who accuse the oil giant of oil spills that destroyed three villages.

The court ruled that the Shell subsidiary in Nigeria was "responsible for damage resulting from the spills" in two of the villages concerned.

The company "Shell Nigeria is ordered to compensate the farmers for the damage," said Judge Sierd Schaafsma at a hearing in The Hague, without specifying how many of them will receive this compensation, the amount of which will be determined at a later date.

The parent company Royal Dutch Shell is also required to equip the pipeline in question in one of the villages "with a leak detection system so that environmental damage can be limited in the future", he added. he indicates.

Supported by Milieudefensie - the Netherlands branch of the international organization Friends of the Earth - four Nigerian farmers and fishermen took legal action in 2008, demanding that the Anglo-Dutch company pay for the clean-up work and pay them allowances.

The plaintiffs, two of whom have died since the start of the 13-year-old legal battle, also demanded that Shell clean up the damage in their villages, Goi, Ikot Ada Udo and Oruma, in the Niger Delta.

The appeals court also found Shell Nigeria "responsible for not interrupting the oil supply on the day of the spill" in Goi.

The two parties have the possibility of appealing in cassation.

- Sabotage -

In 2015, the Court of Appeal declared the Dutch justice competent to rule in the case, annulling a decision rendered in 2013 at first instance, according to which the parent company of Shell - whose head office is in The Hague -, could not be held responsible for any negligence of its subsidiary in Nigeria.

The Nigerian subsidiary of Shell had been held partially liable and ordered to pay compensation to one of the four plaintiffs.

Shell has always attributed the pollution to sabotage and claims to have cleaned up the premises.

The appeals court ruled on Friday it needed more time to rule on Ikot Ada Udo's case, saying the leak was proven to be due to sabotage but it was unclear if Shell could be held responsible for this leak and the cleanup.

"For the people of the Niger Delta, it is crucial that their lands are cleared and that their lost crops and livelihoods are compensated by the guilty party: Shell," Donald Pols, director of Milieudefensie, said in a statement. upstream of the court decision.

The largest oil producer in Africa with 2 million barrels exported every day, Nigeria has been the scene for 50 years of extremely polluting oil exploitation.

In a separate case against Shell also in the Netherlands, four Nigerian widows accuse the company of contributing to the arrest of their husbands, executed by the military regime in the 1990s, as they tried to peacefully disrupt oil development in Ogoni country (southern Nigeria).

© 2021 AFP