Indications emerged at the weekend that Royal Dutch Shell has opened talks with representatives of Mr. Friday Akpan, a 52-year-old Nigerian farmer, who obtained judgment against its Nigerian affiliate, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) from Dutch Court, THISDAY has learnt.
A Shell source, who preferred anonymity, told THISDAY that the company approached the representatives of the farmer immediately after the judgment was delivered.
He also confirmed that Shell had no intention to appeal against the ruling as such action might “fuel further crisis and inflame passion in the Niger Delta.”
“The choice to appeal is a legal option but it may end up attracting more sympathy for the plaintiff and his people and this will portray Shell as being insensitive to the damages caused by pollution. Shell is well aware of the damages suffered by the people but has only maintained a position that they are caused by sabotage. That point has been made and affirmed by the court. Shell is not a bully and will not like to be seen as one. So, the option to appeal this particular case is not on the cards for now,” he said.
However, when asked to confirm officially that the company had commenced negotiation with the farmer on compensation, a Shell Nigeria spokesman, declined to comment on the matter, saying the question was “satanic.”
Four Niger Delta farmers had sued Shell at the District Court of The Hague, seeking compensation for oil spills, which destroyed their farmlands and fish ponds in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
The plaintiffs include Mr. Friday Akpan from Ikot Ada Udo, Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom; Chief Fidelis Oguru and Mr Alali Efanga, from Oruma in Bayelsa State and Chief Benson Barizaa Tete-Dooh from Goi, Gokan Local Government Area of Rivers State.
In a judgment that was believed to be the first time a Dutch court would held a multinational's foreign subsidiary liable for environmental damage, the court heldthat the four oil spills at Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo between 2004 and 2007 were caused by sabotage.
However, only in the case of Ikot Ada Udo that the court ruled that SPDC could have prevented the sabotage by plugging the well at an earlier stage and ordered the company to pay compensation to the affected farmer.
The court rejected the other four out of the five allegations against Shell.
The court held that Shell should be held responsible for the Ikot Ada Udo pipeline leak, as it had failed to take adequate measures to prevent the sabotage.