Over 40,000 Nigerians asking shell to clean up oil spills that have damaged communities for decades
Nigeria’s Ogale people leader Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi unloaded bottles of water and showed why to demonstrate why his people have sued Royal Dutch Shell in a court in London.
The water is contaminated by oil and compounds that cause cancer such as benzene. This is the water that Okpabi’s people drink on a daily basis.
Attorneys representing more than 40,000 Nigerian citizens have demanded that she’ll clean up the spilled oil.
The British High Court heard the lawsuits on Tuesday which allege that decades of spilled oil have contaminated the water and devastated the lives of thousands of farmers and fisherman in the Niger River Delta region where a Shell company has been in operation since the 1950s.
The people filed the lawsuit in the UK, where Shell is based, because they allege corruption in courts in Nigeria.
Okpabi said, “Let the shareholders of Shell who are residents of the advanced world, like Britain, let them see a representative of a kingdom that is being destroyed for them to have money.” He added, “That’s blood money.”
For its part, Shell argued that the case should be removed to Nigeria, saying it involves its subsidiary in Nigeria SPDC, which operates under a joint venture with the government and the plaintiffs.
London-based Leigh Day, the law firm trying the case following it’s win in a landmark agreement from Shell to pa $83.5 million to compensate the Bodo Community for oil spill damages in 2008 and 2009.
Initially, Shell had offered $50,000 to Bodo before they removed the case to the same court in the UK.
The two recently filed lawsuits were brought by Ogoniland communities which are part of the Niger River Delta.
They want Shell held responsible for actions taken by its subsidiary in Nigeria, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited or SPDC. However, according to SPDC, it has produced no gas or oil in the Niger River Delta since 1993.
The region is plagued buy oil theft, illegal refining, and pipeline sabotage.
In its answer, SPDC argued that the lawsuit is based on speculation and is not supported by sufficient evidence.
SPDC plans to challenge jurisdiction in the UK based on its assertion that the plaintiffs and the related issues are in Nigeria.
It argued in court, “If the claimants’ lawyers are correct as to the existence of this novel duty of care, (Shell) and many other parents of multi-national groups will be liable to the many hundreds of millions of people around the world with whom their subsidiaries come into contact in the ordinary course of their various operations.”
It added, “That would constitute a radical if not historic expansion of the law and open the floodgates to litigation on an unprecedented scale.”
The Ogale and the Bille communities account for only only a small part of the millions of Nigerians who, according to Human Rights activists, have been devastated by contamination they allege would never have happened in the multinational oil corporations’ own home countries.
Shell begin operating in Nigeria in 1958. The 1990s Ogoni protesters were disbanded by armed troops sent by the government.
Writer and environmental activists Ken Saro-Wiwa was instrumental in halting Shell oil production in Ogoniland. In 1995 he and eight individuals were hanged under military dictator Sani Abacha.
President Muhammadu Nuhari has said Ogoniland would be cleaned up. The project was to have started in June, however, it is currently experiencing delays.
Currently shell is moving its operations to countries such as Brazil.
Although Shell has argued that the Bodo Community settlement indicates ita willingness to compensate for any issues caused by the operations, the company said th e two new cases arise out of damage caused by sabotage.
A United Nations report in 2011 revealed that at least 10 Ogoniland communities had suffered serious threat to public health from drinking contaminated water. According to the report, the water contained contaminants such as carcinogen benzene, reaching levels that were 900 times above what was considered safe by the World Health Organization.
The report also stated that although eegional oil production had been stopped, there were issues existing in Shell’s remaining facilities.
The report recommended immediate steps be taken to provide drinking water for the community. However, Okpabi said Shell took no steps to do this. He said, “My system cannot give me justice.” He added, “There’s only one place that can give me justice. That is why I am here.”