Nearly 14,000 Nigerians are suing Shell over the devastating impact of pollution | Nigeria

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

People from the Niger Delta region of Ugal, a farming community, submitted their claims last week, joining more than 2,000 people from the Peel region, a largely fishing community. In total, 13,652 claims are from individuals and from churches and schools, asking the oil giant to clean up the pollution they say has devastated their communities. They are also claiming compensation for the resulting loss of their livelihoods. Their ability to farm and fish has been destroyed by the continued oil spills shell operations, they claim.

Shell, which reported profits of more than $30 billion for the first three quarters of 2022, says communities have no legal standing to force a cleanup. Shell also says that individuals are barred from claiming compensation for spills that occurred five years prior to submitting their claims. The company says it takes no responsibility for theft of oil towed from its pipelines by organized gangs, which it says has caused many of the spills.

The case against Shell is taking place as the oil major prepares to leave the Niger Delta after more than 80 years of lucrative operations.

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

“At a time when the world is focused on a ‘just transition,’ this raises profound questions about the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for legacy and persistent environmental pollution.”

Lawyers argue that the scale of the oil spills in the delta conceals a human tragedy of an extraordinary scale, as the pollution devoured by the local population causes severe health effects and affects death rates.

report from Found the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland Babies in the Niger Delta were twice as likely to die in the first month of life if their mothers lived near an oil slick—a study that reported 11,000 premature deaths annually in the Niger Delta.

Shell has argued for five years that it is not responsible for the actions of Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary Petroleum Development Nigeria (SPDC) and the claims of the people of Ogil and Bell cannot be heard in a London courtroom. But the Supreme Court ruled last year, “There is a good case for arguable.” That Nigerian communities can take their cases to the Supreme Court.

Shell continues to argue in its defense that it is not responsible as the parent company.

In addition to the thousands of individual claims against Shell, the lawyers are also seeking compensation for alleged damages to property owned by the groups, for everyone living amid chronic pollution in a rural community of 40,000 in Augill and, in Peel, 13,000. – A strong fishing community that lives on a group of islands in the mangrove forest area in the eastern Niger Delta.

Allegations say that the stream, which is the main source of water in Ugal for agriculture, drinking and fishing, has been severely polluted by oil pollution. Pollution has killed fish, polluted drinking water, and destroyed farmland. Claims are that most of the water coming from the well taps or wells in Ughal has a strong petroleum odor, and is distinctly brown in color, or covered in a sheen of oil.

‘We don’t drink it’: Ugali tap water is a clear brown color – video

Allegations are that oil spills from Shell’s apparatus in Peel caused massive pollution of rivers around the community. Many people live near water and smell the oil in their homes. When the tide rises, the oily water reaches their homes directly, causing damage to their property and property. Oil spills destroyed large swathes of mangrove forests and killed most of the fish and shellfish in the rivers, leaving the people of Peel City without a source of food or income.

Claims brought to the Supreme Court indicate that Shell plc and/or its affiliate SPDC knew of systemic oil spills from their pipelines occurring over many years but failed to take appropriate steps to prevent or clean them up.

Shell has been in Nigeria for 86 years, and its Nigerian operations still account for a significant portion of the company’s overall profits. In a 2011 report, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) exposed the devastating impact of the oil industry in Ogoniland, and made urgent recommendations for “the largest ground clean-up operation in history”. The cost of the initial cleanup over five years has been estimated at $1 billion – about 3% of Shell’s profits in 2022.

But last year’s report by a number of non-governmental organizations, He said Ogonilanders are still waiting for a comprehensive cleanup of the oil spills.

A Shell spokesperson said: “We believe strongly in the merits of our case. The vast majority of spills related to Bille and Ogale’s claims have been caused by illegal third-party interference, including pipeline sabotage, illegal refueling and other forms of oil theft.” Illegal refining Stolen crude oil also occurs widely in these areas and is a major source of oil pollution.”

Shell told the Guardian that it had carried out cleaning and treatment work for the affected areas, and that it was working with the relevant Nigerian authorities to prevent sabotage, theft of crude oil and illegal refining which, according to it, was the main source of pollution. He argued that litigation would do little to help address the issue.

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