A civil court in The Hague rules on the Nigeria oil spills case, in which Nigerian farmers, together with the Dutch arm of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, sued the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell for ruining their livelihoods.
"Fish died as a result of the oil spill, making it difficult for me to live and put my children through school," said farmer Friday Alfred Akpan. Along with three other plaintiffs, he has demanded the oil company pays compensation for damaging his land.
"Shell knew for a long time that the pipeline was damaged but didn't do anything. They could have stopped the leaks," said the lawyer for the Nigerians accusing Shell of a failure to maintain its pipelines and clean up the leaks.
Shell has, however, denied responsibility, claiming that most spills were caused by criminal damage as sabotage and oil theft are widespread in the region.
As the company said in a statement, "The real tragedy of the Niger Delta is the widespread and continual criminal activity, including sabotage, theft and illegal refining, that causes the vast majority of oil spills."
At the court hearing in October 2012, the defense lawyers also claimed that because of the insecurity in the Niger Delta, repairs were difficult to carry out.
A successful case could pave the way for thousands of other compensation claims.
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