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Oil spill: Dutch court orders Shell to compensate N’Delta farmers

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A Dutch court has ordered the Nigerian subsidiary of Shell to pay compensation over oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, a ruling which could pave the way for more cases against multinational oil firms.

The Court of Appeal in The Hague on Friday ruled that the Nigerian arm of the British-Dutch company must issue payouts over a long-running civil case involving four Nigerian farmers who were seeking compensation, and a clean-up, from the company over pollution caused by leaking oil pipelines.

It held Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary liable for two leaks that spewed oil over an area of a total of about 60 football pitches in two villages, saying that it could not be established “beyond a reasonable doubt” that saboteurs were to blame.

The Hague appeals court ruled that sabotage was to blame for an oil leak in another village.

However, it said that the issue of whether Shell can be held liable “remains open” and the case will be continued as the court wants clarification about the extent of the pollution and whether it still has to be cleaned up.

Under Nigerian law, which was applied in the Dutch civil case, the company is not liable if the leaks were the result of sabotage.

Shell Nigeria is sentenced to compensate farmers for damages,” the court said in its ruling, which can be appealed via the Dutch Supreme Court.

The amount of compensation will be established at a later date. The court did not specify how many of the four farmers would receive compensation.

The court did not hold Shell’s parent company, which is based in the Netherlands, directly responsible.

However, it ruled that Shell’s parent company and its Nigerian subsidiary must fit a leak-detection system to a pipeline that caused one of the spills.

The case was initiated in 2008 by the farmers and the Friends of the Earth campaign group, who were seeking reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta region, the heart of the Nigerian oil industry.

The spills concerned were between 2004 and 2007, but pollution from leaking oil pipelines remains a big problem in the Niger Delta.

“Tears of joy here. After 13 years, we’ve won,” the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth tweeted following Friday’s ruling.

Donald Pols, head of the NGO’s Dutch branch, described the court’s decision as “fantastic news for the environment and people living in developing countries”.

“It means people in developing countries can take on the multinationals who do them harm,” he said.

Shell argued that saboteurs were responsible for leaks in underground oil pipes that have polluted the delta. The company also argued that it should not be held legally responsible in the Netherlands for the actions of a foreign subsidiary, meaning Shell Nigeria.

After the ruling, Shell said it would continue to believe the spills were caused by sabotage, adding it was dismayed that its Nigerian subsidy – the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) – was judged to be culpable.

“We are … disappointed that this court has made a different finding on the cause of these spills and in its finding that SPDC is liable,” the company said in a statement.

The Nigerian subsidiary added: “Like all Shell-operated ventures globally, we are committed to operating safely and protecting the local environment.”

Shell discovered and started exploiting Nigeria’s vast oil reserves in the late 1950s and has faced heavy criticism from activists and local communities overspills and for the company’s close ties to government security forces.

Friends of the Earth, which has supported the Nigerian farmers in their legal battle, argues that leaking pipes are caused by poor maintenance and inadequate security and that Shell does not do enough to clean up spills.

– aljazeera.com

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Railway

Police still on trail of Warri-Itakpe rail track vandals – NRC

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• Says vandals risk life imprisonment
Vandals of a section of the newly inaugurated Warri-Itakpe rail track have not been arrested, contrary to an earlier report, the Nigerian Railway Corporation has said.
Coordinator of the new rail line operation, Abdulganniyu Saani, an engineer, who stated this, also dismissed the viral video of the arrest of five suspects with a vehicle load of rail track sleepers, saying it was an old clip of an incident around Jos, Plateau State taken some years back.
He also said the latest cutting of Warri-Itakpe track material was not on the main lane but an extra lane, which had not disrupted the running of freight and passenger trains.
Saani spoke in an interview with NewsTrends on the telephone, warning that vandals would be treated as manslaughter suspects with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment upon conviction because their activities could lead to fatal railway accidents.
He also said that a number of traps had been laid for the arrest of the vandals still on the run and other hoodlums that might be contemplating of vandalizing or stealing railway materials.
“The police in Kogi State where the incident had happened are on the red alert. They are working with other security agencies to apprehend the vandals and anybody who dares tamper with railway materials.
Details later…

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Aviation workers threaten one-week shutdown of Kaduna airport from Sunday

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Aviation workers have threatened to withdraw their services at the Kaduna airport from Sunday, May 16 to Friday, May 21.
The workers in a statement on Saturday said their action was in support of the Kaduna State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over “anti-labour practices perpetrated against public servants in Kaduna State”
The statement was jointly signed by Ocheme Aba, general secretary of the National Union Of Air Transport Employees (NUATE); Rasaq Saidu, general secretary of the Association Of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANANP); and Umoh Ofonime, deputy general secretary of the National Association Of Aircraft Pilots And Engineers (NAAPE).
NLC had said that over 20,000 state workers had not received their April salaries, adding that due process was not followed in the recent disengagement of over 4,000 workers from the local government service, state universal basic education board and primary healthcare agency.
The statement read in part, “As you are all aware, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has declared strike action against the Kaduna State Government over numerous anti-labour practices perpetrated against the public servants of Kaduna state.
“Our unions, being affiliates of the NLC, are part of the decision and are in support of the action against the Kaduna State Government In this regard, our participation on the planned shutdown of Kaduna State is hereby affirmed.
“Accordingly, all aviation workers at the Kaduna Airport are hereby directed to withdraw all services at the airport with effect from midnight of Sunday the 16th of May 2021 to midnight of Friday the 21st of May 2021.
“The effect shall be the total grounding of operations of the Airport within the stipulated period. By this notice, members of the public are advised to make alternative travel plans within the period.”

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Remittances to Nigeria drop by 28% – World Bank

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Remittance inflow to Nigeria dropped by 28 per cent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank has said.
The bank added that remittance flows fell for sub-Saharan Africa by 12.5 per cent, according to its Migration and Development Brief 33 Phase 11 entitled: “COVID-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens’’ published on Thursday.
The report said the decline in remittance flows to Nigeria was largely responsible for the fall in remittance flows to sub-Saharan Africa.
“The decline in flows to sub-Saharan Africa was almost entirely due to a 28 per cent decline in remittance flows to Nigeria.
“Excluding flows to Nigeria, remittances to sub-Saharan Africa increased by 2.3 per cent, demonstrating resilience,’’ the report stated.
According to the report, the relatively strong performance of remittance flows during the COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted the importance of timely availability of data.
It stated that given its growing significance as a source of external financing for low and middle-income countries, there was need for better collection of data on remittances.
It emphasised that there was need for better collection of data on remittances, in terms of frequency, timely reporting, and granularity by corridor and channel.
With global growth expected to rebound further in 2021 and 2022, remittance flows to low and middle- income countries are expected to increase by 2.6 per cent to $553bn in 2021 and by 2.2 per cent to $565bn in 2022.
The report stated that global average cost of sending $200 remained high at 6.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, more than double the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of three per cent.
It stated that sub-Saharan Africa continued to have the highest average cost (8.2 per cent) adding that supporting the remittance infrastructure and keeping remittances flowing includes efforts to lower fees.
The true size of remittances, which includes formal and informal flows, is believed to be larger than officially reported data, though the extent of the impact of COVID-19 on informal flows is unclear.
“As COVID-19 still devastates families around the world, remittances continue to provide a critical lifeline for the poor and vulnerable,” said Michal Rutkowski, Global Director of the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank.
“Supportive policy responses, together with national social protection systems, should continue to be inclusive of all communities, including migrants,” he said.

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