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Oil giant on trial for pipeline leak in Nigeria

Author : Amy Hollamby

04 December 2009

Oil giant Anglo-Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary went on trial before a civil court on the 3rd December 2009 for a pipeline leak in 2005, alleged to have caused vast environmental and social damage. Shell stated that the leak in July 2005 in southwest Nigeria amounted to approximately 400 barrels and had a limited impact on the environment.

Oil giant on trial for pipeline leak in Nigeria
Oil giant on trial for pipeline leak in Nigeria

Furthermore, the leak was not the outcome of bad pipeline maintenance by Shell, but of sabotage. Several militant groups have been fighting in the delta region for years - often sabotaging pipelines and stealing oil to finance their activities. Job-seeking villagers also may purposely cause leaks, then demand oil companies pay them clean up fees, or to protect the tubes.

However, Nigerian villagers are stating that the crude oil which poured from the broken pipeline for four days damaged the environment, destroyed crops and made fishing impossible, ruining their livelihoods. The villagers also blame the leak on corrosion of the pressurised underground pipe rather than sabotage. It has also been stated that Shell took 12 days to seal the leaking pipe.
 
Shell faces two other cases brought by Nigerian villagers in the Netherlands. They are demanding better maintenance of the pipelines, steps to clean up polluted land and financial compensation for the economic damage they say they have sustained.

Shell's operations in the African nation are the largest of the major oil companies working there. Nigeria produces 3% of the world's oil.


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