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Shell contests Dutch ruling on Nigerian spills

Court of appeals takes lead on claims made by Nigerian farmers.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Shell frustrated that Dutch court claims jurisdiction over case of oil spills in the Niger Delta, arguing case should be in the Nigeria justice system. Pictured, the national emblem in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo by miroslav110/Shutterstock
Shell frustrated that Dutch court claims jurisdiction over case of oil spills in the Niger Delta, arguing case should be in the Nigeria justice system. Pictured, the national emblem in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo by miroslav110/Shutterstock

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Dutch supermajor Shell said it was disappointed that a national court in The Hague has assumed jurisdiction over claims tied to oil spills in Nigeria.

Nigerian farmers said Royal Dutch Shell and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria are liable for damages caused by leaking oil pipelines during a three-year period ending in 2007. The parent company said it has no liability for the actions of its subsidiary and that the Dutch court system holds no authority over the case.

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Shell said the spills were caused by saboteurs in the region, noting much of the damage has already been cleaned. With Shell headquartered in the Netherlands, a Dutch appeals court ruled it now has jurisdiction over the case.

"Both the Dutch parent company of the Shell group and the Nigerian subsidiary have been sued," a court statement read. "The proceedings are pending in the Netherlands, because the parent company holds an office in The Hague."

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A spokesperson for the Shell subsidiary in Nigeria said in an emailed statement the company was disappointed in the ruling, arguing the courts in 2013 ruled in its favor.

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"We believe allegations concerning Nigerian plaintiffs in dispute with a Nigerian company, over issues which took place within Nigeria, should be heard in Nigeria," the statement read.

Shell defended its work in Nigeria, saying more than 100 spills reported in the region were the result of sabotage and theft. The managing director of SPDC in 2013 said the problem of oil theft in the Niger Delta had reached "unprecedented levels."

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The court in The Hague added the question of whether or not Shell was actually liable for the spills has not yet been answered. The appeals process should continue next year.

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