News / Africa

Shell in Court Over Nigeria Pollution Charges

Plaintiffs Alali Efanga, Friday Alfrad Akpan, Chief Fidelis A. Oguru, Eric Dooh, and lawyer Chima Williams wait for the start of a court case against Shell, in The Hague, October 11, 2012.Plaintiffs Alali Efanga, Friday Alfrad Akpan, Chief Fidelis A. Oguru, Eric Dooh, and lawyer Chima Williams wait for the start of a court case against Shell, in The Hague, October 11, 2012.
x
Plaintiffs Alali Efanga, Friday Alfrad Akpan, Chief Fidelis A. Oguru, Eric Dooh, and lawyer Chima Williams wait for the start of a court case against Shell, in The Hague, October 11, 2012.
Plaintiffs Alali Efanga, Friday Alfrad Akpan, Chief Fidelis A. Oguru, Eric Dooh, and lawyer Chima Williams wait for the start of a court case against Shell, in The Hague, October 11, 2012.
Selah Hennessy
The international oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell was in court Thursday facing charges of polluting Nigerian villages.  The case has been brought in a civil court in The Hague by four Nigerian farmers and the environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth. 

The farmers are from the Ogoniland region of southern Nigeria and say they can no longer work or feed their families because oil spills in the area have damaged crops and fish farms.

"Communities in Ogoniland had been badly contaminated," said Eric Dooh, one of the Nigerian plaintiffs. "Some communities are deserted, like my community, Goi, in Ogoniland, has been deserted as a result of devastation of the ecosystem and our environment.  My father had four big fish farms."

Ogoniland in the Niger Delta has been a major source of crude oil for decades and Shell is the top multinational operating in the area.

The plaintiffs say the oil operations have resulted in major pollution that has devastated vegetation, water supplies and fishing ponds.

They want Shell to clean up the pollution and ensure pipelines are maintained and kept secure to prevent future leaks.

But Shell says it has done what it can to contain the impact of its operations.  Spills, it says, are largely the result of sabotage by armed gangs who hack into pipelines.

"We went in, we stopped the leak, we cleaned it," said Allard Castelein, vice president for environment at Shell. "There is a process that involves a joint investigation, of government officials, community officials and company officials, they jointly signed off on the fact that it was caused by sabotage."

Last year the United Nations published a report that blamed multinational oil companies - and especially Shell - along with the Nigerian government for devastating environmental impacts in the Niger Delta.

The report said cleaning up the area would cost $1 billion and take 25 years.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth says it hopes the court case in The Hague will mark a precedent.

"What we expect today is that outcome of this case will be that Shell is convicted for polluting the environment, for not properly maintaining its pipelines in Nigeria and for harming millions of people, polluting their drinking water, depleting their fish stocks, ruining their crop lands as a result of oil pollution," said Gerrit Ritsema, a coordinator at Friends of the Earth.

The case has been filed against the Nigerian subsidiary of Shell - the Shell Petroleum Development Company - and against Royal Dutch Shell, the parent company with global headquarters in the Netherlands.  A verdict is not expected until next year.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs