More than 11,000 Nigerians sue Shell in UK court over spills

March 23, 2012

Africa, International

More than 11,000 Nigerians sue Shell in UK court over spills

Lawyers for more than 11,000 Nigerians initiated formal legal proceedings against oil giant Shell in London on Friday after the breakdown of negotiations on compensation following two oil spills.


Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP – Getty Images, file
A man walks near spilled crude oil in the Niger Delta swamps of Bodo, a village in the Nigerian oil-producing region of Ogoniland, in June 2010.

Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria—A group of 35 Nigerian small towns and villages sued Royal Dutch Shell PLC on Friday in a British court, claiming that the company’s slow response to two spills in 2008 left their delta region soaked in crude oil that destroyed the environment and their livelihoods.

Shell, long the dominant oil company in crude-rich Nigeria, quickly denied the lawsuit’s allegations and said the spills represented only a fraction of the damage done in a community where thieves routinely tap into its pipelines without concern for the environment.

The lawsuit, which was publicized in the British media long before it was filed Friday, seeks unspecified damages and a legal order for Shell to clean the polluted waterways and marshlands of 35 small towns around the town of Bodo (pop. over 70,000) in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. There, the suit alleges Shell allowed 560,000 barrels of oil — or 88.9 million liters (23.5 million gallons) — to spill over weeks before finally stopping the flow from its malfunctioning pipelines.

The spills, estimated by experts from video footage of the damage at the time, came before any other spills or damage occurred in the communities, said lawyer Martyn Day, a senior partner of Leigh Day & Co., which is representing the villages.

Lawyers for the communities filed the suit in London, where the transnational corporation has one of its head offices, out of concerns of not being able to get a fair trial in Nigeria. Shell agreed to the jurisdiction of the suit.

The villages are part of a region of Nigeria’s Niger Delta known as Ogoniland. Crude production in Ogoniland stopped in 1993, but pipelines and flow stations operated by a Shell subsidiary and the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. still run through villages and fields.

Villages and communities remain largely hostile to Shell and other oil firms because of environmental damage and the execution of Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by Nigeria’s former military regime in 1995. However, Day said the communities would have welcomed Shell’s help during the 2008 spills.



December 23, 2011- An oil slick, estimated at roughly 350 square miles in size from the Royal Dutch Shell’s Bonga field, is slowly making its way toward the southern Nigerian coast, threatening wildlife and widespread shore pollution, Nigerian officials have said. Royal Dutch Shell confirmed that the deepwater spill occurred during what the company called a “routine transfer” of crude from a floating storage device in the Bonga oil fields 75 miles offshore to a tanker; a leak in one of the transfer lines caused the spill.

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