UK court approves Nigerian suit against Shell Oil
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on Feb. 12 allowed a case filed by 42,335 Nigerian claimants against Shell Oil and a Nigerian subsidiary to proceed in the UK courts. The claimants first sued Shell and its subsidiary in 2015 over leaks from pipelines in the Niger Delta that resulted in the destruction of farmland, the death of fish stocks, and poisoned drinking water. They argued that the oil spills occurred due to the negligence of the subsidiary company responsible for operating the pipelines. They charged that Shell's parent company owed them a "common law duty of care," since it exercised significant control over the operations of the Nigerian subsidiary.
Vigilantism fears in Nigeria's conflicted north
Traditional rulers in Nigeria's strife-torn north are warning that vigilante militias now forming to fight Boko Haram are a sign of a generalized social breakdown in the region. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, told a public meeting in Kaduna that the new paramilitaries could themselves metamorphose into terror groups. "Governors must see that they do more to address insecurity, just imagine that there are over 50,000 orphans. They will be worse than Boko Haram if allowed to grow without proper care," he said. Abubakar is chair of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, but a youth-led Coalition of Northern Groups has emerged outside control of the traditional rulers, and launched a paramilitary network called Shege Ka Fasa to defend against the Islamist militias. (Sahara Reporters, Feb. 8)
Niger Delta militants step up pipeline attacks
Presumed militants of the Niger Delta Avengers struck four pipelines in three days, halting production at key facilities. On May 25, militants blew up a pipeline at Chevron's Escravos facility in Delya state, shutting down all the company's onshore activities in the Niger Delta. The following day, militants hit a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline at the Batan oil-field in Warri, Delta state. The day after that, pipelines operated by Shell and Agip in neighboring Bayelsa state were blown up. The NDA had days earlier warned Chevron that no repairs should be carried out on facilities previously targeted by the group, until their demands are fully met. NDA claimed on its official website May 11 that it suspected Chevron was preparing to carry out repair works at the Okan Valve platform, which was blown up by the group at the start of the month. Among its demands, NDA wants to "free the people of the Niger Delta from environmental pollution, slavery and oppression," according to a statement on the group's site. A May 31 deadline had been set for oil companies to quit the Niger Delta. (This Day, May 29; AP, Punch, Nigeria, May 28; Channels Television, Nigeria, Chemical Engineer, May 27; RigZone, May 26; Sahara Reports, May 25)
Niger Delta Avengers re-ignite insurgency
Three soldiers were killed when gunmen on a speedboat opened fire on a military base in Southern Ijaw district of Nigeria's Bayelsa state on May 9. The soliders were part of Operation Pulo Shield, mobilized to protect oil operations in the Niger Delta region. No group has claimed responsibility for the slayings, but a new militant organization, the Niger Delta Avengers, has claimed a string of attacks on oil infrastructure in the region in recent weeks. Targets have included a Shell facility in Forcados, a Chevron platform in Abiteye, and pipelines transporting oil to the Warri and Kaduna refineries. The Avengers have pledged to contine the attacks, prompting Royal Dutch Shell to evacuate most of its staff from its Eja OML 79 production facility, near the massive Bonga oil-field.
Niger Delta pipeline blast signals renewed insurgency
Three people were killed and several wounded when an oil pipeline belonging to Italy's ENI exploded in Nigeria's southern Delta region March 27. There have been numerous recent pipeline accidents in the region, where residents have long complained about oil pollution, but the blast at Olugboboro, Bayelsa state, appears to have been an intentional attack. One alleged perpetrator has been arrested, and four others are said to remain at large. Militant attacks are again on the rise in the Niger Delta. In February militants staged a sophisticated underwater attack, probably using divers, on a Shell pipeline, shutting down the 250,000 barrel-a-day Forcados export terminal. President Muhammadu Buhari, elected a year ago, has extended an amnesty signed with the militants in 2009, but has ended pipeline protection contracts to former militant groups. In a period of insurgency a decade ago, groups such as the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) attacked pipelines and abducted oil workers before Buhari's predecssor Goodluck Jonathan instated the amnesty and began granting contracts to the former militants. There are fears the militants are now returning to arms, and even reviving ambitions to secede from Nigeria. (Reuters, March 30; Reuters, March 29; The Guardian, Nigeria, March 28 via AllAfrica; IBT, July 28)
Nigerian farmers can sue Shell in Netherlands
The Hague Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 18 that Royal Dutch Shell can be sued in a Dutch court for their involvement in oil spills in Nigeria. The ruling stems from a suit brought by four Nigerian farmers that claimed Shell and its Nigerian subsidiaries were responsible for oil leaks leading to their lands being damaged. In a statement explaining their reasoning for their decision, the Court of Appeals said, "It cannot be established in advance that the parent company is not liable for possible negligence of the Nigerian operating company."
Shell agrees to settlement in Niger Delta oil spills
Royal Dutch Shell on Jan. 7 reached a settlement in a lawsuit concerning the Niger Delta oil spills of 2008. The settlement, totaling $84 million, will be divided between 15,600 individuals who will receive $3,300 each as compensation for losses caused by the spills. The remaining $30 million will be disbursed throughout the community, which also suffered significant damage from the spills. Rights group Amnesty International noted that this settlement is "an important victory for the victims of corporate negligence," but expressed disappointment that it took six years for the victims to be compensated. They argue that Shell knew that the oil spills [which took place near Bodo in October and December 2008] were a distinct possibility since 2002 and took no "effective" action to prevent them from occurring. However, the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Mutiu Sunmonu, contends that they have taken responsibility for the spills from the beginning, and that the spills were due to operational pipe failure. AI also accused Shell of making false claims about the impact of the oil spills in documents presented to a UK court in November. They state that Shell claimed that only 4,000 barrels of oil spilled for both spills but AI believes the number is closer to 100,000 barrels for the first spill alone.
US high court ruling threatens human rights suits
In a unanimous decision issued on April 17, the US Supreme Court sharply restricted the use of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute for foreign nationals to sue for human rights violations that took place outside the US. The case at issue, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, was brought by 12 Nigerians now living in the US; they charged that Royal Dutch Petroleum (better known as Royal Dutch Shell) and other oil companies with a presence in the US conspired with the Nigerian government to commit human rights violations against Nigerians protesting environmental damage by the companies.
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