Nigeria: Shell’s Repeated Spills Lead to Class-Action

Royal Dutch Shell has been hit with a class-action lawsuit in London by the Bodo community of Nigeria, which suffered a “devastating” oil spill when a key pipeline burst in the summer of 2008. The community filed a lawsuit last month in Nigeria’s High Court against both Royal Dutch Shell and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, raising the possibility of a drawn-out legal battle for compensation.

More than 69,000 people live in Bodo in the Niger Delta, which has seen 9 to 13 million barrels of oil spilled from the pipelines of various companies over the years – more than double the volume of BP’s Gulf of Mexico leak. UN figures show more than 6,800 spills between 1976 and 2001.

Shell Petroleum Development Company, operating in the Niger Delta region, suffered 22 oil spills resulting from sabotage between January and February 2011.  The company attributed the incident of vandalism of its facilities especially pipelines to lack of government presence and severe unemployment, volatile political environment and militancy and organized criminality among others.

Other causes of pipeline vandalism included ineffective law enforcement and the unwillingness of the communities to expose criminals due to fear of reprisals. Most people resolve to vandalize the pipelines because they want to “generate oil spill clean-up jobs.” The stealing of crude oil for illegal refining also leads to serious environmental problems.  Click here to read related article in The Daily Independent (Nigieria).

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