020 7650 1200

Crater To Store Oil, Dug By Shell At Ogale

Academic Report reveals true extent of pollution in Niger Delta following Shell oil spills

Lawyer concerned about delays to clean up oil spills in Niger Delta

Posted on 14 June 2018

The lawyer representing over 30,000 Nigerians following two devastating oil spills in the Niger Delta has expressed his grave concern following the publication of an academic paper which found that the environmental damage around the site of the two spills has worsened significantly after delays to clean up the region.

The Bodo community was devastated by two large oil spills in October and December 2008 from Shell’s pipelines in the Niger Delta which caused the largest destruction of mangrove habitat in the history of oil spills. 

In 2015, following litigation in the UK Courts by law firm Leigh day on behalf of the community, Shell settled the claims for £55m and Bodo became the only community in the entire Niger Delta, out of hundreds of polluted communities, which is subject to an internationally recognised clean-up operation, the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI).

The academic paper, which was only made public last month, follows analysis undertaken in 2015 and commissioned by the BMI.  

The research was led by Mr Kay Holtzmann, who was previously employed by the BMI to lead the clean-up of the Bodo community and Dr David Little, a former independent advisor to the BMI who represented the United Nations Environment Programme, whose 2011 report found extensive damage in the region. 

Mr Holtzmann claims that Shell denied him permission to publish the study’s results in a scientific journal previously, the results have only now been made public. 

The research concludes:

“Independent health officials should evaluate the chemistry data as soon as possible to determine the best course of action to protect the local people from any ongoing exposure to toxins of unknown but potentially significant magnitude.  This recommendation is made because of the very high sediment concentrations of aromatics (EC5–EC44) and other hydrocarbons, especially PAHs…”

“To the extent that anyone still relies on potentially-contaminated water for drinking and household use, they should be provided with clean water until remediation is complete, as recommended by UNEP (2011)…”

“A properly designed confidential medical screening programme and epidemiological investigation might also be among the appropriate responses to contamination in Bodo, and similar recommendations were made for Ogoniland by UNEP (2011).”

Last week a High Court judge ruled that the Bodo community should be allowed to continue their legal action against Shell in the UK Courts to force Shell to clean up the pollution.  

This follows a decision by the community to put on hold an ongoing legal challenge in the London High Court to force Shell to clean up their environment. This decision was made in response to the clean-up initiative but the Community want to be able to take further legal action as they believe it is the only reason that Shell finally engaged to clean up its oil.   

Dan Leader from the international team at Leigh day said:

“We continue to have grave concerns over the levels of pollution in the Niger Delta from these oil spills and the effect this pollution has on our clients. This research confirms our worst fears and we cannot understand why Shell has refused to allow it to be made public before now.

“We have been writing to Shell for 12 months to ask them what public health measures they will be taking to protect the population, at this point they have refused to put any measures in place.”