Four Nigerians have taken on an unlikely and outsized opponent, Shell Oil -- and on Shell's home turf.
The men live in villages in the Niger Delta, a sprawling region in the south of the country where the Niger River fans out to meet the Atlantic. The area is home to much of the oil-rich country's petroleum infrastructure -- refineries, etc. -- serving as the commodity's gateway to the rest of the world. The oil business in this region is often dangerous, and toxic and polluting.
The villagers, working with Friends of the Earth, say that leaks from a Shell pipeline ruined farmland, ponds, and the water supply. From the Associated Press:
"If you are drinking water you are drinking crude, if you are eating fish, you are eating crude, if you are breathing, you are breathing crude," one of the farmers, Eric Dooh, told reporters outside court.
"What I expect today is justice," he added. "I expect that judges are going to proceed in this matter, have sympathy and look into our environment -- tell Shell to apply the international standards where they are operating in Nigeria."