Nigerian farmers to sue Shell over oil spills on their land

Alison Dilworth

25 January 2016

landmark court ruling finally allows 4 Nigerian farmers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands to jointly sue Shell in the Netherlands for damage caused by oil spills in Nigeria.

This is a great victory for the farmers who brought the case and their communities. It’s a victory too for our sister groups, Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Netherlands, who have supported the case throughout.  Friends of the Earth Netherlands is also a co-claimant in the case.

This ruling offers hope that Shell will finally begin to restore the soil around my village so that I will once again be able to take up farming and fishing on my own land.

Alali Efanga, Nigerian farmer and plaintiff  

Shell must also now provide access to internal company documents. This could reveal important information on the spills.  

The story so far

In 2008, Friday Alfred Akpan, Eric Dooh, Alali Efanga (pictured) and Fidelis Oguru with Friends of the Earth Netherlands took Shell to court over oil spills that they said had polluted their fields and fish ponds.  

They asked that Shell: 

  • clean up the spills
  • provide compensation and
  • prevent new leakages by properly maintaining and patrolling company pipelines.

In January 2013, after many delays, a court in The Hague ruled that Shell was guilty of causing pollution but only on one farmer’s land. Neither side was happy. Both appealed on different issues. 

Then in December 2015, the court of appeal ruled in favour of the farmers allowing them to purse their cases. What happened and who is responsible will now be considered.

The big picture

The ruling could pave the way for victims of environmental pollution worldwide to turn to the Netherlands for legal redress when a Dutch company is involved. Cases against Shell have also been heard in the US and  UK.

These avenues are inaccessible to most. However, the case could act as a deterrent, making Shell and other companies more respectful of the environment.

What can we do

The fossil fuel industry is also a major contributor to climate change. We're working to build a bigger and more diverse climate movement to bring about the energy revolution the world needs. 

 Join us and fight fracking


Alali Efanga from Oruma