Over 13,000 Nigerian residents sue Shell over oil spill USA News Update

Over 13,000 Nigerian residents sue Shell over oil spill

Residents draw water from a well contaminated by oil pollution in Ogale Town, Eleme, southeastern Nigeria on June 13, 2015.

AFP Contributor | AFP | Getty Images

More than 13,000 residents of two Nigerian communities are seeking damages from Shell in the High Court in London, calling on the energy giant to clean up residual oil and compensate for devastating environmental damage.

The application from 11,317 people and 17 institutions from the Niger Delta region in Ogale, a rural community of around 40,000 in Ogoniland, was filed last week, according to Leigh’s Daythe UK law firm representing the plaintiffs.

The action follows individual claims by 2,335 people from the small Nigerian community of Bille, which were brought to the High Court in 2015.

The 13,652 claims combined ask Shell to take responsibility for the loss of their livelihoods, saying their ability to farm and fish has been largely destroyed.

Shell, which reported its highest annual profit of nearly $40 billion on Thursday, says communities have no legal standing to enforce oil spill cleanup. The company says the communities of Ogale and Bille have been barred from seeking compensation for the spills, many of which occurred more than five years before the claims were filed.

The claims are expected stand trial next year. They follow a 2021 ruling by the UK Supreme Court that there was “a good defensible casethat London-listed Shell was legally responsible for the systemic pollution caused by its Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.

Shell said in 2021 it planned to exit the Niger Delta and sell its oil fields and onshore assets after 80 years of operation. The company has often been challenged in court for its environmental record in the West African country.

Daniel Leader, a partner at Leigh Day, said the case raised significant questions about Big Oil’s liabilities for environmental damage overseas.

“Shell appears to be seeking to free the Niger Delta from any legal obligation to deal with the environmental devastation caused by oil spills from its infrastructure for many decades,” Leader said.

“At a time when the world is focusing on ‘just transition,’ this raises deep questions about the liability of fossil fuel companies for legacy and ongoing environmental pollution.”

Shell said last month that windfall taxes imposed by the European Union and the United Kingdom following the profit hike would cost the group around $2 billion.

Paul Ellis | AFP | Getty Images

Asked about the remarks on Thursday, Shell CEO Wael Sawan told CNBC: “I wouldn’t respond to those claims. What I would say…first and foremost is recognizing how difficult the context is in Nigeria. , particularly in the Niger Delta”.

He told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick: “Many of the spills were caused by theft and sabotage. And even when we tried to come back to be able to fix these leaks, which were caused by third parties, we didn’t not been able to access it sometimes for security reasons.”

“So there’s a really troubled context in Nigeria and it’s a context that’s best handled for the Nigerian government rather than a private company.”

“A permanent commitment”

Shell has not had a presence in Ogoniland since 1993 and claims to have transferred the operation of its regional assets to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company. Shell said the Trans Nigeria Pipeline – which is owned by joint venture Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria and carries crude oil from various companies – passes through Ogoniland.

A period of three years to study by the United Nations Environment Programme, published in 2011, reported how the Ogoni people were exposed daily to severe contamination, impacting their water sources, air quality and agricultural land.

Despite UNEP’s warning of “immediate danger to public health” and urgent call for the largest land-based clean-up operation in history, Leigh Day says no clean-up has taken place and residents always drink from poisoned wells.

“We have an ongoing commitment to clean up areas that we have direct access to, and we continue to do so,” Sawan said. “Last year, we invested heavily in the decommissioning and restoration of many facilities in Nigeria and around the world, so this is indeed a priority area for us.”

He added: “But, as I said earlier, these specific and other spills are largely attributed to theft and sabotage, which we continue to try to be able to remedy despite the many challenges that I have already refers to.”

Over 13,000 Nigerian residents sue Shell over oil spill

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