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Nigeria - oil spills

In January 2015, the High Court in London approved a landmark settlement in a case brought by Leigh Day on behalf of residents of the Bodo fishing community in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. The claim was against a Nigerian subsidiary of the multinational Shell.

Bodo sits on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria, an area with 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. The spills caused the biggest recorded loss of mangrove habitat in history. The oil spills ruined the livelihoods as well as the environment of the people who live in Bodo. For years, Shell failed to make any real efforts to clean up the area or to compensate  the Bodo community.

In 2011, the United Nations Environment Pro- gramme estimated that cleaning up the pollution to enable a sustainable recovery of Ogoniland could take up to 30 years. The report criticised Shell’s control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure in Ogoniland and found that its limited attempts at cleaning up the area had been wholly ineffective. Shell initially offered the community £4,000 in compensation.

Leigh Day took the case of the Bodo villagers to the High Court in London. In 2013, four months before the case was due to go to trial, we reached a landmark settlement with Shell on behalf of the community for £55 million. This money has helped the residents of Bodo to diversify into other areas of work while they wait for the area to be cleaned up.

Leigh Day has also relentlessly pushed for Shell to clean up its oil spills in line with international standards. As a result, Bodo is now subject to a comprehensive clean-up programme by internationally recognised experts in oil spills.

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