European multinational, Royal Dutch Shell, is currently involved in a serious legal battle over alleged oil spills in Nigeria. The Nigerian plaintiffs and Friends of the Earth Netherlands (an environmental organization), on behalf of many polluted villages in Nigeria, claim that Shell should be held responsible for three major oil spills in the Niger Delta region between 2004 and 2007.
According to a Reuters article, plaintiffs allege much destruction has occurred where they live, due to Shell’s actions: “My community is a ghost land as a result of the devastation. We had good vegetation. Today people have respiratory problems and are getting sick,” said one of the plaintiffs Eric Dooh, from the Goi community, which lives between two pipelines (Reuters).
The case is already considered groundbreaking, as it is the first time a Dutch multinational company has been sued in a Dutch court (Shell’s headquarters are in the Netherlands). Shell appeared in court on October 11th, yet the verdict of the case will not be announced until 2013.
Meanwhile, Shell has admitted to the pollution in the Niger Delta region, yet claims that the company is not responsible, as they assert that oil thieves in the area are the ones who caused the damage.
According to Reuters, if Shell loses the case, Friends of the Earth believe that a critical precedent will be set, and other multinationals may find themselves losing similar lawsuits if taken to court in Europe.
Do the plaintiffs have a strong enough case to actually win an environmental lawsuit against such a powerful multinational company? We will soon find out…