Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Nigeria Shell oil spills to be tried at Dutch court

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

A Dutch court has ruled it has the authority to hear a case brought by a group of Nigerian farmers against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

The four farmers claim a subsidiary of Shell is responsible for contaminating their land in the Niger Delta.

They are seeking compensation and assurances that Shell will clean up the land polluted by alleged oil spills.

Shell denies any responsibility and had argued that the court has no authority in the case.

It said the spills, which sprung from a leak from a high-pressure pipeline in 2005 in Bayelsa State, were caused by sabotage by militant groups that have been fighting in the region.

Shell expressed "disappointment" at the ruling.

"We believe there are good arguments on the basis of which the district court could have concluded that it lacks jurisdiction in respect of these purely Nigerian matters."

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.

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