Shell settles Nigerian Delta oil spill suit with €15 million

Shell has agreed to pay € 15 million to Nigerian communities that were affected by various oil pipeline leaks in the Niger Delta between 2004 and 2007. The settlement stems from a case brought by Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands against a Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary SBDC. Shell maintained that the spills were caused by sabotage, but the Dutch appeals court held last year that it had failed to provide this beyond a reasonable doubt. The claim by the communities was for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the region. Whilst the case relates to contamination from oil and gas related infrastructure to land and waterways, the case is important from a climate perspective insofar that the Dutch court was willing to find that Shell (the parent company) owed a legal Duty of Care to the communities in Nigeria where its subsidiary’s operations were conducted. It is the first case in which a company and its foreign subsidiary have been tried in the Netherlands for allegedly breaching a legal duty of care abroad and overcomes concerns by some African states that they cannot hold parent companies abroad liable for climate impacts in their home territories. The manner in which the settlement was channelled directly to affected communities is also precedential.

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