Nigeria: Communities sue Shell over oil spills

Amnesty International says Shell promised to clean up is pollution of the Niger Delta, yet the fragile ecosystem remains contami

Tens of thousands of Nigerian fisherpeople and farmers were given the green light to sue energy giant Shell in a British court on March 2 for a series of destructive oil spills in the Niger Delta over the past decade.

The action, brought by London-based law firm Leigh Day on behalf of Nigeria's Ogale and Bille communities, alleges that decades of uncleaned oil spills have polluted fishing waters and contaminated farming land.

As well as a compensation package, both groups want the Anglo-Dutch oil company to clean up the land devastated by the spills.

Tens of thousands of Nigerian fisherpeople and farmers were given the green light to sue energy giant Shell in a British court on March 2 for a series of destructive oil spills in the Niger Delta over the past decade.

The action, brought by London-based law firm Leigh Day on behalf of Nigeria's Ogale and Bille communities, alleges that decades of uncleaned oil spills have polluted fishing waters and contaminated farming land.

As well as a compensation package, both groups want the Anglo-Dutch oil company to clean up the land devastated by the spills.

Leigh Day hopes to prove that Shell is liable for failing to protect its pipelines in the Bille community from damage caused by third parties extracting oil. It says this could mark a “significant expansion” in the firm's liability.

The lawyers argued in a press statement that the 40,000-strong Ogale community continues to live with “chronic levels” of land and water pollution, which has had severe impacts on its farming and fishing.

In hearings expected to take place later this year, Shell will argue that the two cases should be heard in Nigeria, not in Britain, according to a spokesperson for the company's Nigerian subsidiary, SPDC.

The spokesperson added that both Bille and Ogale are areas “heavily impacted” by oil theft, sabotage and illegal refining, activities which Shell has long argued are the main causes of pollution in the Niger Delta.

A 2011 report by the United Nations Environment Program found that decades of oil pollution in Ogoniland region, where Ogale is located, may require the world's biggest ever clean-up and that drinking water had been contaminated by oil products.

Leigh Day says spills have meant the communities have not had clean drinking water since 1989.

Leigh Day says that Shell, historically Nigeria's largest oil producer, has failed to act on the report despite its promises.

An Amnesty International report also says Shell promised to clean up the area, yet the fragile ecosystem surrounding the delta remains contaminated.

Last year Leigh Day won an unprecedented US$83.5 million in damages from Shell at the High Court in London for the Bodo community, who live in another part of the Niger Delta.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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