In December 2014 Martyn Day and his team achieved a landmark settlement for over 15,000 Nigerian fisher folk following two oil spills from a Shell pipeline that devastated their community. The majority of the fisher folk were residents of a fishing community in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria called Bodo.
Bodo sits on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria and the area is the largest wetland in Africa. It contains one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet, supporting an abundance of flora and fauna, in amongst its vast mangrove swamps.
Prior to the oil spills the people of Bodo say that the community was an enviable and beautiful place to live with lush mangrove surrounding their community and an abundance of fresh fish available on the doorstep. In the local language, Gokana, “Bodo” means “because of the sea” and the community and its inhabitants have been inextricably linked to the waters that surround their community since the first inhabitants settled their hundreds of years ago. Learning to fish was a part of growing up to the Bodo people and as important as learning to walk.
The vast majority of the community made their living from the sea whether it was through fishing, periwinkle harvesting or selling dried fish in the upland markets. This abundant resource meant that Bodo was a comparatively wealthy and well educated community for the region and allowed its people to pay for school fees and build brick houses.
As well as being inextricably linked to the sea, Bodo has also been similarly connected with oil and the multinational oil company Shell. The community and its waters sit on a vast oil field as does much of the Niger Delta. Shell has been extracting oil in the region since the 1950s and in recent years environmental damage has been a major concern. In 2008/9 two large oil spills occurred in the Bodo community’s waters causing catastrophic damage to the sensitive mangrove swamps and destroying much of the fauna and flora that once made Bodo the wonderful community it was.
The damage the two oil spills caused means that to this day the people of Bodo have been unable to fish and carry on their lives as they did before and it could be many years more before their environment returns to what it once was.
Despite this huge devastation Shell did little to assist the people of Bodo. In 2011, Martyn Day and his team took on the cases of the Bodo people and issued their claims in the High Court in London. After a hard fought legal battle and four months before the case was due to go to trial Leigh Day reached a settlement with Shell on behalf of the Bodo Community. The settlement reached was worth £55 million and it was divided between the inhabitants of Bodo.
Although Bodo’s environment remains devastated this money has provided our clients with the assistance they need to help them diversify into other areas of work whilst the clean-up and remediation is ongoing and means that they can continue to send their children to school and have roofs over their heads.