Earlier this week, an appeal court in the Hague ruled that Shell Nigeria (A subsidiary of the Royal Dutch Shell) is liable for oil spills in Oruma and Goi's Niger-Delta regions. This decision is coming after thirteen long years of legal battle instituted by the plaintiffs (Four Nigerian Farmers and Milieudefensie - Friends of the Earth Netherlands) against the Royal Dutch Shell. The decision (If not taken to the supreme court) could set legal precedence. Unabated spilling is still rife within the Niger Delta region. Since its beginnings in 1930, Shell has repeatedly been under the radar for many environmental degrading activities.
The case was prolonged mainly due to the continued insistence of the defendant (Royal Dutch Shell) that it could not take responsibility for its foreign subsidiaries' actions. The firm has also often tied the spillages to saboteurs' efforts within the Niger-Delta region of the country rather than its technical glitches. These positions have been used to argue against claims for settlement in Ikot Ada Udo's case in 2006 and 2007.
Oil spills have continued to constitute a source of environmental degradation in the Niger-Delta over the years. The situation has been more devastating for the indigenes, majority of whom take on aquaculture as a means of livelihood. Cases are rife of water pollution, air pollution among a long list of environmental degrading acts of crude-oil exploration companies. This has led to a series of agitations over the years, notable among them being the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8.
In our view, we expect more local efforts on the part of the Federal Government and the oil majors to ensure there are no spillages, or at least it is reduced to the barest minimum as continued spilling and compensation does not help the development of the region. Many of these environmental damages are irreversible and cause untold hardships for the indigenes. Also, we welcome the judgment on the basis of the moral duty it will place on holding companies to monitor beyond their subsidiaries' core operating activities, issues such as the impact on such activities on the environment.