LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM/ In 2008 and 2009 two oil spills caused devastating damage to the environment, in particular the waterways of the fishing community of the Bodo Community in the Niger Delta.
This is the first case of its kind where the oil giant admits responsibility in a legal claim brought in the United Kingdom on behalf of some 69,000 Nigerians living in poorest communities.
Shouting for help
The impacted communities are seeking compensation in British courts after the London based law firm Leigh Day & Co representing the Nigerian community brought a claim for damages against Royal Dutch Shell plc (RDS) and its subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company (Nigeria) ltd (SPDC).
The oil accident from 2008 presented a leak for more than 6 weeks before being repaired by Shell who was immediately report by local people. The oil pumping out of the lines were estimated of 2,000 barrels per day. The repair took more than one month, causing a very serious environmental disaster.
A further accident occurred in December 2008, spilled oil in an area of more than 20 km2 of the Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State in Nigeria, causing a devastating contamination in the creek, rivers, mangroves and waterways in the Bodo area. This second accident was not stopped until February of 2009.
A huge accident
The amount of leaked oil is estimated at 20% the amount leaked in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 following the events of the BP Deepwater Horizon accident. The main difference between the accidents in the Gulf and in Nigeria, is that Deep Horizon spill dissipated in open ocean, but in the Bodo region every creek was damaged, affecting the communities life, its feeding and fish.
Last April the claim was brought into the United Kingdom after Shell accepted its liability on both accidents. After an agreement done between the parts, the SPDC accepted full responsibility and concede the jurisdiction to the UK, meaning that RDS was no more part of the case.
The lawyer Firm assured that this is the first time that these companies have faced claims in the UK for damage resulting from an oil spill from its operations in Nigeria.
For a first time
The Bodo Community, represented by Martyn Day from Leigh Day & Co, welcomed the approach taken by Shell. About Shells answer Day said that “This is one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen and yet it had gone almost unnoticed until we received instructions to bring about a claim against Shell in this country.”
I am pleased that having been notified of the claims Shell has been acting speedily to put right the terrible damage that has resulted. I would hope that we will see urgent work being carried out to remediate the local environment.
The lawyer underscored that the Bodo´s are a fishing community and water its main source for their lives, was hardly affected by the accidents and that “their livelihood now cannot sustain even the smallest of fish. The spills have caused severe poverty amongst the community.”
But oil spill history in Nigeria is not new. Particularly 2008 was a year where oil companies were losing thousands of barrels of oil per day due attacks to pipelines coming from militants that since the middle of the past decade take arms against politicians and companies that were cheating the country about the oil business.
Dozens of attacks against foreign workers where perpetrated between 2006 and 2007, year in which seemed that militants gave their weapons. But up to now, Shell and other companies are still receiving attacks from unknown groups.
To confirm the corruption carrousel from Shell in the Nigerian government, a leaked cable from the Website Wikileaks become public assuring that the company has infiltrated many stages of the government in order to reach its own benefits.
The acceptance from Shell comes as a United Nations Environment Programme on the impact of oil pollution on Nigeria’s Niger Delta is due to be published on Thursday 4 August. The document comes in a hot moment for Shell and other companies that are permanent polluting Nigeria´s creeks and waters due militant attacks.