Shell Nigeria denies it lied to Dutch court about pollution, says damage is from sabotage

LONDON – Shell Nigeria denies it lied to a Dutch court in The Hague about oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

The multinational company, half owned by Nigeria’s government and with significant Dutch shareholding, says sabotage, not negligence, caused spills in 2004 along the Trans-Niger pipeline that destroyed several hectares of mangrove forests and the livelihoods of residents of Goi village.

“We dismiss any suggestion that SPDC has knowingly continued to use a pipeline that is not safe to operate,” a spokesperson for the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Shell is preparing for the appeal hearing.

In a press statement released Monday, Friends of the Earth Netherlands alleged that documents revealed this year in a British court show that Shell continued to pump oil through a corroded pipeline despite being warned in 2002 that it had exceeded its lifespan and needed to be replaced.

“Shell has repeatedly surpassed our worst nightmares,” said Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, in a statement.

The legal action was brought to The Hague in 2012 by the environmental group and four Nigerian farmers to hold Shell Nigeria and Shell Headquarters liable for damages from the 2004 spillage. The leaking oil caught on fire and burned for several days in Goi, a fishing and farming village, which Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey describes as a “community erased by pollution.”

“Goi is still a ghost town,” Bassey told AP. “Community people are still refugees in other villages.”

Bassey, a former chairman of Friends of the Earth International, visited Goi in August. Much of the oil pollution in Goi and other villages in Nigeria’s Ogoniland oil-producing region is still evident. In 2011, the U.N. reported that it could take 25 to 30 years to clean up oil pollution in Nigeria.

Despite oil pilfering and output reduced by sabotage, Nigeria produces about 2 million barrels of oil a day.