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3/1/16

Nigeria: Environmental Concerns: Dutch Royal Shell proves test case for oil majors’ -- by William Wallis and Anjli Raval

Royal Dutch Shell’s environmental record will come under renewed fire on Wednesday in two cases that will test the ability of aggrieved communities in Nigeria to use UK courts to hold the company to account.

Shell’s Nigeria subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC), is the largest onshore producer in the Niger Delta, where millions of barrels have been spilled — in accidents and as a result of criminal interference — since oil was first discovered in 1956.

In many instances — including in the two cases being brought to the high court in London by solicitors Leigh Day on behalf of the affected communities of Ogale and Bille — the spills have yet to be properly cleaned up. Shell says that in both cases sabotage and oil theft was a likely cause.

Lawyers at Leigh Day said their action would contribute to establishing whether oil spill litigation “goes international”. They would also seek to compel the company to clean up the affected areas immediately and compensate villagers for the impact on their lives in the wake of last year’s £55m payout by Shell for a similar Nigerian case brought by the Bodo community, also handled by Leigh Day.

Wednesday’s hearing is a procedural one in which Leigh Day will begin to make the case for why a UK court should have jurisdiction over Shell’s Nigeria subsidiary. Similar cases brought against SPDC and other oil companies in Nigeria have tended to languish for years, even decades.

“No one is going to mess around in the Nigerian courts if they can get remedy in the UK,” said Daniel Leader, lead solicitor in one of the cases.

In the past, the World Wildlife Fund has said that amount of oil spilled in Nigeria over the decades has been equivalent to an Exxon Valdez disaster every year for half a century. It claims the Niger Delta is one of the top five polluted places on earth. 

Read more Shell proves test case for oil majors’ environmental records - FT.com

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