Page last updated at 12:32 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Nigeria farmers sue Shell over oil spill

Nigerian oil pipes
Nigeria is the world's eighth-largest oil exporter

A group of Nigerian farmers is suing Royal Dutch Shell, claiming that the oil firm polluted their land in the Niger Delta region.

The four farmers allege that oil spilt from the supply lines of a subsidiary of Shell contaminated fish ponds and farms, ruining villagers' livelihoods.

They will ask a court in the Netherlands for compensation and to force Shell to clean up the area.

Shell denies responsibility and says the court has no authority in the case.

In a separate case earlier this year, Shell agreed to pay millions of dollars to a group of Nigerians over alleged abuses of their rights in the delta region.

Although Shell paid compensation, it did not accept responsibility for rights abuses.

The current court case concentrates on a leak from a high-pressure pipeline on 26 June 2005 in Bayelsa State.

Lawyers for the farmers, who are backed by environmental group Friends of the Earth Netherlands, told the BBC's Network Africa programme that leak had effectively impoverished people in the delta.

"What we want is first that Shell should be compelled to go back to the communities and do a thorough clean-up of the environment," said Chima Williams.

"Then that Shell should pay adequate compensation to the people for loss of livelihoods."

Shell said it regretted the spillage, but said it was not responsible because the leak was caused by sabotage.

Several militant groups have been fighting in the delta region for years - often sabotaging pipelines and stealing oil to finance their activities.

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