Jan. 30 - A Dutch court rules that Royal Dutch Shell can be held partially responsible for pollution in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, saying the company should have prevented sabotage at one of its facilities. Ciara Sutton reports.
Royal Dutch Shell has been found partially responsible for pollution in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria. A Dutch court has ruled that it should have prevented sabotage at one of its facilities, and ordered Shell to pay damages to one farmer. It's the first time a Dutch-registered company has been sued in a domestic court for offenses allegedly carried out by a foreign subsidiary. Geert Ritsema is from interest group Friends of the Earth. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COORDINATOR FROM FRIENDS OF THE EARTH NETHERLANDS, GEERT RITSEMA, SAYING: "It's never happened before that a Dutch court has convicted a Dutch company for its operations abroad for damage, so that's also a breakthrough." Shell Petroleum Development Company is the largest oil and gas firm in Nigeria, with an output of more than a million barrels of oil or equivalent per day. Friends of the Earth plus four Nigerians filed the suit in 2008, seeking reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways. The fishermen and farmers said they could no longer feed their families because the region had been polluted by oil from Shell's pipelines and facilities, after oil spills between 2004 and 2007. But The court backed Shell's argument that the spills were caused by sabotage and not poor maintenance of its facilities, dismissing four out of the five claims. Shell's Vice-President for Environment Allart Castelein. (SOUNDBITE) (English) VICE-PRESIDENT FOR ENVIRONMENT AT SHELL ALLART CASTELEIN SAYING: "We are very pleased with ruling by the court today. It's clear that both the parent company Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the local venture Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria, has been proven right in the sense that neither the parent company is liable nor responsible, and the fact that SPDC has always claimed that damages and leaks were caused by sabotage and theft." Shell says it's already played its part in cleaning up the Delta, which accounts for more than 50 percent of Nigeria's oil exports. The fine Shell must pay the farmer is yet to be determined.