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Nigeria - oil spills

In January 2015 Leigh Day achieved a landmark settlement against a Nigerian subsidiary of Shell for over 15,000 residents of Bodo, a fishing community in the Niger Delta region. Bodo sits on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria,  which is the largest wetland in Africa. It contains one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world. The vast majority of the community made their living from fishing in the mangrove creeks. 

Shell has been extracting oil in the region since the 1950s and in 2008/9 two large oil spills caused catastrophic damage to Bodo’s sensitive mangrove swamps and destroyed much of the fauna and flora The oil spills ruined the livelihoods as well as the environment of the people who live in Bodo. Years passed after the oil spills yet no clean-up of the spilled oil took place and no effort was made to compensate the Bodo community. 

Shell offered the Community £4,000 in compensation.  However, in 2011, Leigh Day took on the cases of the Bodo people in the High Court in London. In 2013, four months before the case was due to go to trial, Leigh Day reached a settlement with Shell on behalf of the Bodo Community for £55 million. This money has provided our clients with the assistance they need to help them diversify into other areas of work whilst they await the clean-up of the Bodo creek.

Since the Shell settlement the Ogale Community - a rural farming community in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta with an estimated population of over 40,000 – has brought a claim against Shell.  The UN Environmental Programme carried out testing in Ogale in 2010 and concluded that, in light of the extent of the pollution, ‘it is a fair assumption that most members of the current Ogoniland community have lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives’.  

The claim was issued in the Technology and Construction Court at the end of 2015.

Shell challenged the jurisdiction of the English Courts to hear these claims, but the communities have been given leave to appeal.  The appeal is likely to be heard before the end of 2017 and will have significant ramifications for international environmental litigation.


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