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Cautious welcome to Shell ruling from British Lawyers for Bodo Community

Leigh Day have cautiously welcomed today’s Dutch Court ruling that Shell has to pay compensation in relation to one oil spill in the Niger Delta, whilst expressing concern that another 4 cases brought by Nigerian farmers were dismissed

30 January 2013

Leigh Day, lawyers for the Bodo community, who are suing Shell in the English Courts for two oil spills in 2008, have cautiously welcomed today’s Dutch Court ruling that Shell has to pay compensation in relation to one oil spill in the Niger Delta, whilst expressing concern that another 4 cases brought by Nigerian farmers were dismissed.

In a landmark ruling, the district court of the Hague ruled that Shell can be held responsible for oil pollution in Nigeria's Niger Delta region and ordered the oil giant to pay damages to one farmer, Mr Friday Akpan, finding Shell guilty of neglecting its duty of care, ruling that: "Shell could and should have prevented this sabotage in an easy way".

However, the Court found that in the other 4 cases the company had taken ‘sufficient precautions’ against ‘sabotage’ and were therefore not liable for the damage the farmers claim has devastated their area.

Martyn Day from Leigh Day, the lawyer who is representing the Nigerian Bodo community, whose claim against Shell is expected to be heard in the UK High Court next year, said:

“Over many years Shell has denied any responsibility for these types of spills resulting from ‘bunkering’ or sabotage. The Dutch decision in relation to Mr Akpan is therefore a major step forward as it makes Shell aware in no uncertain terms that they have a responsibility to ensure that all steps are taken to ensure the illegal sabotage does not occur.

“However we are concerned that in relation to the other 4 cases Shell have been given a ‘free pass’ to carry on poor environmental practices which harm these very poor and desperate communities.”

Leigh Day are bringing legal action against the UK headquartered Shell on behalf of 11,000 members of the Bodo community, following two massive oil spills in the Niger Delta, which experts have advised amounted to about 500,000 barrels from a Shell pipeline in 2008.

The oil devastated the environment surrounding the community of Bodo, in Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers State, Nigeria.

In August 2011 Shell admitted liability to the spill but have not yet compensated the community or adequately cleaned the area according to lawyers who have visited the area.

Mr Day Concluded: “Shell and other oil companies cannot sit back leaving the communities to bear the devastation of the spills while they carry on making profits from the oil continuing to pump through the pipelines.”

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