Nigerian village sues Eni for damages from pipe explosion

MILAN (Reuters) - A Nigerian village has filed a lawsuit in Milan against Italian oil company Eni demanding compensation for damage caused by an oil pipeline explosion in 2010, an Italian lawyer representing the village said on Thursday.

The logo of oil company Eni-Saipem is pictured at the petrol station in Milan, Italy, February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The village of Ikebiri in the Niger Delta is asking Eni for 2 million euros ($2.2 million) in damages along with a commitment to clean up the area covering more than 43 acres (17 hectares), Luca Saltalamacchia told a news conference.

“The explosion that happened near a river caused an environmental disaster that polluted water and land,” Saltalamacchia said.

Mining and energy firms around the world have battled a spate of cases brought in international courts against their subsidiaries in other countries.

Anglo-Dutch oil company Royal Dutch Shell successfully fought efforts by one Nigerian community to sue the company in British courts, but it settled another case brought in London by a Nigerian community in 2015.

According to Saltalamacchia, Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC), which is controlled by Eni, has claimed it has already carried out cleaning up operations in the area.

A spokesman for Eni said NAOC had always acted responsibly and had cleaned up the areas affected by the 2010 oil spill quickly and efficiently, adding an inspection by the relevant authorities had had a positive outcome.

“However, some members of the Ikebiri community had already started legal proceedings at the relevant Nigerian court,” he said, adding NAOC was providing details to clear up the dispute.

He said Eni had been told legal proceedings had also started in Italy.

Saltalamacchia, who will be flanked by environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth in the case against Eni, said a first hearing had been set for Dec. 11 at the Milan civil court.

Eni has been operating in Nigeria since 1962 and last year produced 117,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

($1 = 0.9139 euros)

Reporting by Manuela D’Alessandro, Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by David Clarke and Mark Potter