Tomorrow in The Hague, four Nigerian farmers and fishermen will learn their fate arising from three oil spills in 2004, 2006 and 2008 in Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States.
In the dock are Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
The Plaintiffs are as follows:
Eric Barizaa, who is representing his deceased father, Chief Barizaa Dooh of Goi community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State; the spill occurred in November 2004.
Alali Efanga of Oruma community in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State; the spill occurred in June 2006.
Fidelis Ayoro Oguru, also of Oruma community inOgbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State; from the spill of 2006.
Elder Friday Akpan of Ikot Ada Udo community in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of AkwaIbom State; the spill occurred in June 2008, and
Mlieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands.
They are asking the court to hold Shell liable for the oil spills in their three communities; to order Shell to maintain her pipelines to guarantee no more oil spills in the future; clean up the oil pollution in their communities; and pay adequate compensation to the farmers for the damages suffered as a result of the spills.
The case commenced in 2008. In 2009, the issue of jurisdiction was determined in favour of the Plaintiffs, stating that the court in the Hague has the jurisdiction to hear the case.
According to our correspondent, “The issue of lispendis was equally determined in favour of the Plaintiffs in 2010 that the case in The Hague is not the same as the one in Nigeria in the case of Elder Friday Akpan of Ikot Ada Udo. However, in 2011, the application calling on Shell to open their books for inspection and copying by the Plaintiffs was decided in favour of the Defendants.
On October 11, 2012, the court entertained the full trial of the case in an open court, paving the way for judgment tomorrow, January 30, 2013.
Observers say the case is pivotal for oil spill and corporate responsibility cases in Nigeria.
According to Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria, “This judgment is a vindication of the position ERA/FoEN has held and campaigned on over the years, that is - Shell in Nigeria has not been a good corporate citizen. It had engaged in double standards in her operational activities leaving her facilities unchecked and unattended to with the resultant effect being series of avoidable oil spills which are left for months and years in some circumstances. We only hope that Shell will not deal with this judgment the way it deals with decisions of Nigerian courts where it picks and chose which judgments to comply with and those not to. We hope the strong arm of the Dutch law will compel Shell to abide by this decision."