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Shell faces lawsuit over Niger Delta pollution

THE HAGUE, -- Royal Dutch Shell faces a lawsuit from four Nigerian villagers on Thursday in a case that could set a precedent for damage claims against international companies.

Filed in a local court in The Hague, where Shell has its joint global headquarters, the case seeks to make Shell and other corporations responsible for pollution from three oil spills between 2004 and 2007 in the Niger Delta region of Africa's top energy producer.

Plaintiffs are four Nigerian farmers and fishermen and campaign group Friends of the Earth.

The four seek unspecified compensation and argue they can no longer feed their families because the area has been polluted with oil from Shell's pipelines and production facilities.

“My community is a ghost land as a result of the devastation. We had good vegetation. Today people have respiratory problems and are getting sick,” said Eric Dooh, 44, from the Goi community, which lies between two pipelines.

“Shell is aware of the whole devastation. I want them to pay compensation, to clean up the pollution so we can grow our crops and fish again.”

Shell says the pollution was caused by oil thieves and believes it has played its part in cleaning up.

“The matter has been resolved as far as we are concerned and we do not properly understand why Friends of the Earth has submitted the case,” said Allard Castelein, Shell's vice president for environment.

The biggest pollution problem in the Niger Delta was caused by thieves who steal oil from Shell's installations, he said. Around 150,000 barrels of oil are stolen every day in the Delta. That is worth about US$6 billion a year.

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