Nigerian lawyer Chima Williams is one of the winners of this year’s prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
The seven recipients of the 2022 award come from across the world and are being honoured for taking “extraordinary measures to protect our planet”.
After two oil spills in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta region in 2004 and 2005, Mr Williams worked with two local communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for the widespread environmental damage caused by its Nigerian subsidiary.
The Goldman Environmental Foundation says he knew how difficult it would be to hold oil companies accountable in the Nigerian court system, so in 2008 he helped the victims seek justice in The Hague by partnering with Friends of the Earth Netherlands to bring a case.
The farmers and fishermen wanted payment for lost income due to contaminated land and waterways and demanded that pipeline maintenance be improved.
It has been a long court battle, but in January this year a court of appeal ruled that Royal Dutch Shell ultimately had oversight and control over its subsidiary’s operations to the point that it had a duty to prevent oil spills.
The ruling means that Goi and Oruma farmers are owed compensation for the oil spills, with amounts yet to be determined, the Goldman Environmental Foundation says.
“While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity,” said Jennifer Goldman Wallis, the foundation’s vice-president.