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Shell - Ogale and Bille

In October and December 2015, the Ogale and Bille Communities in the Niger Delta filed claims in the English Courts against Shell. The cases involve devastating oil pollution caused by Shell’s operations.

In October and December 2015, the Ogale and Bille Communities in the Niger Delta filed claims in the English Courts against Shell. The cases involve devastating oil pollution caused by Shell’s operations.

Ogale

At least 40 oil spills from Shell’s infrastructure in the Ogale community since 1989 have caused serious contamination to the community’s land and waterways. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) carried out testing there in 2010 which found that the oil contamination in the community’s groundwater was 1,000 times higher than the levels allowed in Nigerian law. UNEP also found that water in the community was dangerous and unfit for human consumption. UNEP stated that the drinking water situation in Ogale “warrants emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts” and that exposure to these levels of hydrocarbons was “certain to lead to long term health consequences”.

Ogale is a fishing and farming community. It relies on the Ogale Stream which runs through the land for farming, drinking, washing and fishing. The Community also used boreholes, but these are now so polluted that they are not safe for consumption or use. The oil pollution has also ruined the Community’s farmland.

The Community have instructed Leigh Day to compel Shell to clean-up the oil and to get financial compensation for the losses they have suffered.

Bille

Bille is a riverine community which consists of around 45 islands. Between 2011 and 2013 oil spills from Shell’s apparatus caused massive oil spills into the rivers around the community. An estimated 13,200 hectares of mangrove swamp has been damaged by the pollution. This has killed most of the fish in the rivers, and Bille’s fishing population has been left without a source of food.

The jurisdiction litigation

The Ogale and Bille communities’ claims were joined together in the courts. The communities allege that Shell’s parent company, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), which is based in the UK, is responsible for the oil pollution because it has some control over operations in Nigeria, where many thousands of oil spills from Shell pipelines have occurred since the company started operating in the 1950s. They also allege that the Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria, which is a subsidiary of RDS, is also responsible. However RDS has disputed that it is legally responsible for the oil spills. It says that it is just a parent company and that it has no legal duty to people in Nigeria.

The issue of jurisdiction is currently being considered by the Supreme Court following a hearing in June 2020. Judgment as at early February 2021 is expected imminently.

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Senior partner

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Partner

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