The National Coalition on Gas flaring and Oil spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) welcomes the Dutch court’s ruling on Wednesday 30th January 2013, in the case instituted against Royal Dutch Shell by a group of farmers from the Niger Delta. The ruling states that SPDC, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, can be held partially responsible for pollution in the Niger Delta, and that the company should have prevented sabotage at one of its facilities there.
NACGOND considers this to be a significant development in the quest for redress, reparations and compensation for decades of abuse and destruction of the environment. It brings us a step closer to remedying the marginalisation of our people and the compromise to their livelihood, occasioned by a rapacious oil industry.
This will be considered a test case for holding multinational companies responsible for their unprofessional activities in remote regions of the world where they operate.
It is important for the Nigerian State agencies and the international/indigenous oil companies to take this ruling seriously and learn a lesson from it, a lesson that the world is increasingly intolerant of overt environmental abuses orchestrated by corporate greed. Without doubt, some of the activities of the international oil and gas companies in the Niger Delta cannot be tolerated by their home governments in the Netherlands, United Kingdom or the USA.
We are also aware that on account of the weakness of legal institutions in Nigeria, justice has remained elusive to affected communities all over the region, as companies often manipulate the system to their advantage. It is our hope, therefore, that this ruling will contribute to changes on the ground in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, and that our judiciary may bring speedy redress for years of pollution and destruction of farm lands, creeks and rivers in this region.
Moving forward, NACGOND demands that the Nigerian authorities clarify the role of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), making it either a regulator or a business entity, not both, as is the case now. There is an obvious conflict of interest.
Secondly, we demand that the relevant authorities, in consultation with communities, put in place a new compensation mechanism that could deal swiftly with all compensation claims without going through the slow, cumbersome and corrupt judicial system.
Finally, the international oil and gas companies must change the way they operate in the region. It is necessary for them to respect and adhere to international best practice as stipulated in their own operating guidelines and procedures.
* This is a Press Statement issued by the National Coalition on Gas flaring and Oil spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) which was signed by its Coordinator - Inemo Samiama.