Nigeria: Shell accepts liability for oil spill in Niger Delta community following class action suit; activists expect similar suits from other affected communities

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Article
4 August 2011

[DOC] Open letter on oil spills from the Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC)

Author: Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC)

Oil spills in the Niger Delta are a tragedy, and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) takes them very seriously. That is why we have always accepted responsibility for paying compensation when they occur as a result of operational failure. SPDC has always acknowledged that the two spills in the Bodo area in 2008, which are the focus of extensive media reports today, were caused by such operational failure. Even when, as is true in the great majority of cases, spills are caused by illegal activity such as sabotage or theft, we are also committed to cleaning up spilt oil and restoring the surrounding land. It is unfortunate that inaccurate reporting has created the impression that SPDC in particular and oil companies in general are responsible for all oil spills in Nigeria. The two spills at issue here resulted in around 4,000 barrels of oil being spilt. It is regrettable that any oil is spilt anywhere, but it is wildly inaccurate to suggest that those two spills represent anything like the scale which some reports refer to. Equally, speculation by the plaintiffs' lawyers as to the level of compensation which may be payable is misguided and massively in excess of the true position. Concerted effort is needed on the part of the Nigerian government (which itself owns a majority interest in the assets operated by SPDC under a joint operating agreement with the Nigerian state oil company, NNPC), working with oil companies and others, to end the blight of illegal refining and oil theft in the Niger Delta, both of which perpetuate poverty. This is the major cause of the environmental damage which media reports have so graphically illustrated.

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Article
3 August 2011

Ogoniland oil spills: Shell admits Nigeria liability

Author: BBC News

Oil giant Shell has accepted responsibility for two devastating oil spills in Nigeria's Ogoniland region. The Bodo fishing community sued Shell in the UK, alleging that spills in 2008 and 2009 had destroyed the environment and ruined their livelihoods. Their lawyer said they would seek hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for one of the world's "most devastating oil spills". Shell told the BBC it would settle the case under Nigerian law….Martyn Day, representing the 69,000-strong community, said they would demand "adequate compensation immediately"….Shell said it accepted the spills were caused by equipment failure and not by sabotage or theft, which it said cause most of the spills in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.

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Article
3 August 2011

Shell accepts liability for two oil spills in Nigeria

Author: John Vidal, Guardian [UK]

Shell faces a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars after accepting full liability for two massive oil spills that have devastated a Nigerian community of 69,000 people and may take at least 20 years to clean up...Shell's acceptance of full liability for the spills follows a class action suit bought on behalf of communities by London law firm Leigh Day and Co...Many other impoverished communities in the delta are now expected to seek damages for oil pollution against Shell in the British courts...Last week Shell Nigeria said: "SPDC accepts responsibility under the Oil Pipelines Act for the two oil spills both of which were due to equipment failure. SPDC acknowledges that it is liable to pay compensation -to those who are entitled to receive such compensation." [also refers to Trafigura]

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Article
3 August 2011

Shell oil spills in the Niger delta: 'Nowhere and no one has escaped'

Author: John Vidal, Guardian

"This was an exceptionally sensitive ecosystem. The spill lasted a very long time and it spread with the tides. Ten years ago you would have seen rich, lush vegetation here. Now it is all dead. The mangroves have been killed. The oil has got deep into the sediments. Without a complete clean up to international standards this commuity has a hopeless future. The health of people is at risk. The company [Shell] needs to compensate the people but they must also recover the environment," said Zabby [head of conservation at the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development in Port Harcourt]. "Nowhere and no one has escaped. Every family has been affected. This has caused serious poverty to everyone," says chief James, assistant secretary to the Bodo council of chiefs and elders. "Nearly 80% of people here are fishermen or they depend on the water. They have lost their livelihoods..."...he said...

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Article
3 August 2011

Shell’s Nigeria pay-out could top £250m

Author: Sylvia Pfeifer & Jane Croft, Financial Times

Royal Dutch Shell faces having to pay compensation of potentially more than £250m ($410m) after the Anglo-Dutch oil group admitted liability for two spills in Nigeria following a legal claim brought in the UK. The agreement comes after a class-action lawsuit was brought in the High Court by the Bodo Community in the Niger Delta against Shell and its subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). Martyn Day, of law firm Leigh Day acting for the Nigerians, said that he was pleased Shell had admitted liability and agreed to concede to the English jurisdiction and court system…Most of those who have brought claims are fishermen and typically earn about £3,000 to £5,000 a year on average… The SPDC said it “has always acknowledged that the two spills which affected the Bodo community, and which are the subject of this legal action, were operational”. “As such, SPDC will pay compensation in accordance with Nigerian law,” it added.

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Article
21 July 2011

Ogoni pollution: ERA decries delayed release of UNEP report [Nigeria]

Author: Business Day [Nigeria]

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and other civil society groups have cautioned the United Nations Environment Programme...against further delay on the planned release of its two-year assessment of the environmental and public health impacts of oil spills in Ogoniland..."...Any further delay in the release of the report might raise avoidable apprehension among the Ogoni people who have borne and continue to bear the brunt of the reckless pollution visited on their environment,” said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey. [refers to Shell]

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