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Shell admits liability for huge oil spills in Niger delta

Richard Hall - The Independent

Oil company Shell could be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars after accepting responsibility for two devastating oil spills in Nigeria's Ogoniland region.

The agreement comes after the community in the Delta region of Nigeria brought a class-action lawsuit against Shell in the UK, alleging that spills in 2008 and 2009 had destroyed the environment and ruined their livelihoods.

Until now, Shell has claimed that less than 40,000 gallons were spilt in the accidents. But experts who have studied the spills in Bodo, Ogoniland, said the amount leaked into the local environment could be as much as 10 million gallons.

Locals claimed the spills devastated the Bodo community, which relies on fishing and is surrounded by water.

Martyn Day, the lawyer acting for the 69,000-strong Bodo community, called the disaster "one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen", and said the settlement could set a precedent for other communities in the Niger Delta to seek damages for oil spills.

"The Bodo people are a fishing community surrounded by water. What was the source of their livelihood now cannot sustain even the smallest of fish. The spills have caused severe poverty amongst the community.

"This is one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen and yet it had gone almost unnoticed until we received instructions to bring about a claim against Shell in this country [the UK]."

Mr Day added that he would be seeking "adequate compensation immediately" for the community.

Royal Dutch Shell is the biggest international oil operator in Nigeria, accounting for roughly half the country's exports of 2.5 million barrels daily.

Posted Date: 
4 August 2011