Court orders Shell to pay Nigerian farmers over oil spills

Press release
This is a fantastic victory for Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Nigerian communities suffering the damages of oil drilling
  Published:  29 Jan 2021    |      3 minute read

In a huge victory for Friends of the Earth and Nigerian communities, Shell Nigeria has been ruled by The Hague Court of Appeals as liable for damages from pipeline leaks in the villages of Oruma and Goi. The court also ordered the Nigerian unit and its Hague-headquartered parent company to build better warning systems so future leaks can be quickly detected.

Shell Nigeria in particular was ruled as liable for oil pollution at three locations in the Niger Delta, but according to the court, the parent company Royal Dutch Shell also violated its duty of care. Three of the four Nigerian plaintiffs and their fellow villagers must now be compensated for the damage caused and Shell must ensure that there is a leakage detection system in the pipelines in Nigeria. It is the first time that a court has held a Dutch transnational corporation accountable for its duty of care abroad.

Reacting to this morning’s verdict, Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: 

“This is a fantastic victory for Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Nigerian communities suffering the damages of oil drilling. For too long companies like Shell have been shirking their responsibility for the impact of the dirty industry they push on communities around the world. Thirteen years of fighting for justice has finally turned this around, and today’s judgement is a wakeup call for polluting companies and governments everywhere. The UK government should be ending all its investments in fossil fuel projects overseas, unless it wants to face legal challenges.”

Eric Dooh from Goi, one of the four Nigerian plaintiffs said: 

"Finally, there is some justice for the Nigerian people suffering the consequences of Shell's oil. It is a bittersweet victory, since two of the plaintiffs, including my father, did not live to see the end of this trial. But this verdict brings hope for the future of the people in the Niger Delta."

Channa Samkalden, the lawyer for the Nigerian farmers and Milieudefensie said: 

"After years of litigation there is finally justice for many of my clients, only the case in Ikot Ada Udo is still ongoing. Not only is Shell liable for the oil spill and my clients will get what they are entitled to, this case also shows that European companies must behave responsibly abroad."

Donald Pols, director of Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands said: 

"This is fantastic news for the affected farmers. It is enormous that Shell has to compensate for the damage. This is also a warning for all Dutch transnational corporations involved in injustice worldwide. Victims of environmental pollution, land grabbing or exploitation now have a better chance to win a legal battle against the companies involved. People in developing countries are no longer without rights in the face of transnational corporations."

Jill McArdle, corporate justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: 

“This is a hopeful day for all victims of oil companies' pollution and human rights abuses. But no victim should have to wait 13 years for justice. We need better EU laws now to hold European companies liable for what happens in their supply chain. Thousands of Europeans are demanding the EU holds businesses accountable in its upcoming proposal for a new law.”



  1. For interview requests with Donald Pols (director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands), Channa Samkalden, Chima Williams and the four Nigerian claimants, please contact the Friends of the Earth Netherlands Press Office on +31622398887 or email [email protected] 
  2. For Nigerian journalists, please contact Friends of the Earth Nigeria Head of Media on +2348037256939 or email [email protected]
  3. The details of compensation to be awarded to the Nigerian claimants will be decided later
  4. The case against parent company Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) and Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria (SPDC) was instituted in 2008 by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) and four Nigerian farmers
  5. Despite decades of promises, projects, reports and other lawsuits, the Niger Delta remains heavily polluted. Oil spills are the order of the day. Even the cleanup operation that the Nigerian government, Shell and others were to start is still not functioning after 10 years of promises and preparations. Sabotage sometimes appears to be caused by Shell employees, according to a report by Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Friends of the Earth Nigeria.