Only in the case of Ikot Ada Udo the court ruled that The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) could have prevented the sabotage by plugging the well at an earlier stage. In this particular case saboteurs opened the valve (above surface) with a wrench. In 2010, SPDC took the necessary measures to contain the well. This was also acknowledged by the court. For Ikot Ada Udo the proceedings will continue between SPDC and Mr. Akpan to establish damages, if any.

Friends of the Earth also argued that SPDC did not clean-up the spill sites properly. This allegation was dismissed by the court. Mutiu Sunmonu, Managing Director of SPDC and Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria, said: “We welcome the court’s ruling that all spill cases were caused by criminal activity.”

Mr. Sunmonu said: “Oil pollution is a problem in Nigeria, affecting the daily lives of people in the Niger Delta. However, the vast majority of oil pollution is caused by oil thieves and illegal refiners. This causes major environmental and economic damage, and is the real tragedy of the Niger Delta. SPDC has made great efforts to raise awareness of the issue with the government of Nigeria, international bodies like the UN, the media and NGOs. We will continue to be at the forefront of discussions to find solutions.

“For SPDC, no oil spill is acceptable and we are working hard to improve our performance on operational spills. In the past years we have seen a decline in operational spill volumes. These spills, however, were caused by sabotage and the court has, quite rightly, largely dismissed the claims.”