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Bayelsa Commission Report into oil pollution impact coincides with attempt by Shell to avoid independent scrutiny of Bodo oil spill clean-up

International human rights lawyers have welcomed the Bayelsa Commission Report into serious environmental damage caused by the operations of international oil companies operating in Bayelsa State, Nigeria as they prepare to face Shell in another court hearing over oil pollution in the Bodo Community.

Posted on 16 May 2023

Leigh Day’s international team, which represents thousands of Nigerian villagers whose communities have been devastated by Shell oil pollution, says the report by the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission headed by the former Archbishop of York, The Rt Revd and Rt Hon the Lord Sentamu, is a damning assessment of the environmental destruction caused by international oil companies in Bayelsa.

Lord Sentamu said Bayelsa has been the victim of “environmental genocide”.

His report details significant shortcomings of international oil companies operating in Nigeria which have repeatedly caused widespread oil contamination and failed to uphold their legal and moral obligations while making billions of dollars of profit through the exploitation of oil resources.

The cost of clean-up in Bayelsa is estimated in the Report at $12 billion over 12 years.

The publication coincides with an attempt by Shell to evade its liability for cleaning up oil spills in the Bodo Community.

On Tuesday 23 May 2023, the same day as Shell Global AGM will be held in London, the High Court will hear an application by the Bodo Community in Nigeria to proceed with their claim for clean-up of oil spills from Shell pipelines in 2008 to trial.

The Bodo Community suffered two spills of almost half a million barrels of oil in 2008 from the pipelines of Shell’s Nigerian company, SPDC. The spills caused the largest loss of mangrove environments in the history of oil spills. In 2015 the Bodo Community settled claims for compensation for loss of livelihoods caused by the spills.

Shell claims to have almost completed clean-up of the spills.

However, the Bodo Community are concerned that significant levels of pollution remain in the Bodo environment. Recent photos of the Bodo creek show alarming levels of oil that appear to remain in the ecosystem, whilst independent experts have raised serious concerns about the quality of the clean-up. Shell has resisted the Claimants’ attempts to independently verify the adequacy of that clean-up, leaving them with no choice but to return to court to enforce their rights.

Leigh Day partner Daniel Leader said:

“We are disappointed and concerned that Shell is opposing the Bodo community’s attempts to verify the Bodo clean-up operation. If Shell are confident that their clean-up meets international standards then they have nothing to hide and should welcome scrutiny. This should be an opportunity for Shell to work with the Community to reassure them that the clean-up meets international standards. Instead, Shell’s response is to seek to extinguish the Community’s legal right to clean up.”

Leigh Day partner Matthew Renshaw said:

“We wholeheartedly support the Bayelsa Commission report and its recommendations. The Report shines further light on the horrific consequences of the prioritisation of profit by international oil companies such as Shell, over the safety of local populations and protection of the environment in the Niger Delta.

“Indeed it is the second major report issued in relation to the devastating impacts of oil pollution in the Niger Delta, following the 2011 UNEP report on the situation in Ogoniland. Both reports found catastrophic levels of oil contamination in the environment. It is particularly timely given that Shell appear to be intending to exit the Niger Delta leaving a legacy of pollution across the region.”

Daniel Leader
Corporate accountability Diesel emissions claims Environment Group claims Human rights International litigation

Daniel Leader

International human rights, business human rights and corporate accountability lawyer

Matthew Renshaw
Corporate accountability

Matthew Renshaw

Matthew Renshaw is a partner in the international department.

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