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2 Feb 2023

Sandra Laville, Guardian (UK)

UK: 14,000 Nigerians seek justice against Shell over alleged responsibility for pollution of their water sources

"Nearly 14,000 Nigerians take Shell to court over devastating impact of pollution", 2 Feb 2023

Nearly 14,000 people from two Nigerian communities are seeking justice in the high court in London against the fossil fuel giant Shell, claiming it is responsible for devastating pollution of their water sources and destruction of their way of life.

The individuals from the Niger delta area of Ogale, a farming community, lodged their claims last week, joining more than 2,000 people from the Bille area, a largely fishing community. In total 13,652 claims from individuals, and from churches and schools, are asking the oil giant to clean up the pollution which they say has devastated their communities. They are also asking for compensation for the resulting loss of their livelihoods. Their ability to farm and fish has been destroyed by the continuing oil spills from Shell operations, they claim.

Shell, which declared profits of more than $30bn for the first three quarters of 2022, argues that the communities have no legal standing to force it to clean up. Shell argues also that the individuals are barred from seeking compensation for spills which happened five years before they lodged their claims. The company says it bears no responsibility for the clandestine siphoning off of oil from its pipelines by organised gangs, which it says causes many of the spills...

Daniel Leader, a partner at Leigh Day, who is representing the claimants, said: “This case raises important questions about the responsibilities of oil and gas companies. It appears that Shell is seeking to leave the Niger delta free of any legal obligation to address the environmental devastation caused by oil spills from its infrastructure over many decades...

Lawyers argue that the scale of oil spills in the delta masks a human tragedy on an extraordinary scale, with the pollution ingested by local people causing serious health impacts and affecting mortality rates.

A report by the University of St Gallen in Switzerland found that infants in the Niger delta were twice as likely to die in their first month of life if their mothers lived near an oil spill – a study which suggested there were 11,000 premature deaths a year in the Niger delta...

Shell told the Guardian that it had done cleanup work and remediation of affected areas, and was working with the relevant Nigerian authorities to prevent sabotage, crude oil theft, and illegal refining which were, it said, the main source of pollution. It argued that litigation would do little to help address this issue.