Following a court action brought by London lawyers Leigh Day on behalf of the Ogale and Bille communities of Ogoni land, Niger Delta region in Nigeria, permission has been granted for members of these communities to sue Shell over oil spills in the area. It is alleged that several years of Shell activity in the area has brought about water and land pollution in the area thereby disrupting farming and fishing activities which hitherto was a source of livelihood to the people of these communities.
Before the hearing yesterday, Shell issued a statement maintaining that the pollution was from oil pipe vandalism in the area and that the company had stopped production in the area for over two decades now. Shell allegedly are seeking to contest the decision.
However, if this goes through and the decision is upheld, Shell will likely be paying out millions to individual claimants and communities and will also have to be responsible for clean up costs in the area. It is alleged that the oil spill in one of the areas dates as far back as 1989! This is going to be some tough times considering the current oil situation and cutbacks by most operator companies in recent times. At the same time, thoughts have to go out to families and communities who have been directly affected by these issues for several years.