Review: Victory for Niger Delta Farmers as Dutch Court Orders Shell to Pay for Damages

For the first time, a Dutch Company has been brought before a Dutch Appeal Court to account for environmental damage caused abroad. Luckily, the January 29, 2021 ruling was in favor of environmentalists and Nigerian farmers whose lands have been polluted by oil leaks and spills.

Energy Giant, Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary has been ordered to compensate farmers in 2 villages for damage to their land, (which covers an area the size of about 60 football pitches) caused by leaks in 2004 and 2005..

Now, what does this verdict mean for communities in the Niger Delta? One of Nigeria’s leading environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey, joined #TheImpact on Breakfast Central to discuss this ruling and what it means for communities in Niger Delta.

Bassey opined that the judgment means many things to the suffering communities in the Niger Delta at different levels. Besides showing that the International Community is not blind to the devastation that transnational corporations have caused, it also shows that if justice cannot be attained in the home country, Nigeria, it can be found in the home country of those causing the harm. The ruling proves that the communities that haven’t taken their cases to court before now can now go ahead to do that if they are justified, knowing that no matter how long it takes, somebody somewhere would definitely listen to them.

“Whenever these polluting corporations and entities are taken to court in their home countries for crimes committed elsewhere, they always claim that whatever is done in the National branches does not affect the Parent company/headquarter as they have no control over what goes on there. They have used this argument many times and succeeded. But this time around, the cover has been blown, validating the fact that they can run but the truth cannot stay hidden for too long.”

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When asked who regulates and monitors the operations of Shell and why the farmers couldn’t get justice in their own country, Mr. Bassey asserted that the relationship between transnational corporations and their operations in the Global South, (not just in Nigeria), is HIGHLY COLONIAL!

“Although they have granted us independence, there is still a very strong power base that connects those historical arrangements to what exists today.”

Bassey hopes that the effect of this Dutch ruling would rub off on the other companies that operate in the Niger Delta so that they would henceforth sit tight and be responsible. “It’s a time for all International Companies to wake up and get ready.”

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Speaking on the compensation Shell has been asked to pay, the environmental activist said the damage has been inflicted so much that he doesn’t see how the payment can completely repair the damage. “The environment has been completely polluted and devastated, it’s an extreme sport to get clean water for consumption. The air is filled with toxic fumes from hydrocarbon. Visiting members of the community would develop a headache within 5 minutes of a visit as a result of the stench and level of pollution in the air.”

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