OIL giant, Royal Dutch Shell, is facing fresh environmental claims in the London High Court from two Nigerian communities who alleged that they had suffered from repeated large-scale oil spills from the company’s pipelines in the Niger Delta.
The two separate lawsuits were filed on Wednesday, with Leigh Day representing the communities after winning an unprecedented £55m in damages from Shell in a landmark ruling by the same court last year.
The two new claims against Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, have now been issued in the High Court in London on behalf of residents of the Ogale community in Ogoniland and the Bille Kingdom, Leigh Day said in a statement.
But Shell, in a statement on Wednesday, blamed sabotage and oil theft for the ongoing pollution and noted that it had halted oil production since 1993 in Ogoniland, the area where the two communities are located in the Niger Delta.
It said, “Both Bille and Ogale are areas heavily impacted by crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining which remain the main sources of pollution across the Niger Delta.
“Ogale is in Ogoniland and it is important to note that SPDC has produced no oil or gas in Ogoniland since 1993. Access to the area has been limited following a rise in violence, threats to staff and attacks on facilities,” the company added.
Ogale is located in the Nchia administrative region of Eleme Local Government Area, Rivers State in Nigeria and has an estimated population of over 40,000. The people of Ogale have traditionally been either crop farmers or have relied on the Ogale Stream, which runs from the farming areas in the north-east of the community land to the west of the community land, its tributaries and waterways as fishing areas.
However, Ogale has been subjected to repeated oil spillages across much of the community since at least 1989. At one spill site at Okuluebu, it is estimated that there were 87,500 barrels of oil remaining at the site when the United Nations Environment Programme conducted investigations in 2010.
According to statement from Leigh Day, the Ogale pipelines and infrastructure are several decades old and in a poor state of repair, making the area vulnerable to oil spills that have caused, and continue to cause, long-term contamination of the land, swamps, groundwater and waterways in the community.
Bille, which is located in the Degema Local Government Area in River State, Nigeria, is populated by nearly 13,000 residents and made up of a number of island towns and fishing settlements that are surrounded entirely by water.
“Residents of Bille have traditionally relied on fishing to sustain their way of life. However, following the devastation caused by the spills emanating from an oil pipeline known as the Nembe Creek 30” Trunkline, their livelihood has been destroyed,” the statement said.