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Nigeria Groups Take Oil Spill Complaints Against Shell to Court

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Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 15.03.25Sarah McGregor and Chris Kay: March 1, 2016

Two Nigerian communities have filed cases in a London court alleging Royal Dutch Shell Plc is responsible for oil spills that have contaminated the Niger River delta, according to the legal team representing them both.

The first hearing for both claims against Shell and its local unit, Shell Petroleum Development Co., will begin on Wednesday in a London court, according to the statement. The action is being led by Leigh Day, the law firm that handled a similar case that Shell settled last year by agreeing to pay 55 million pounds ($77 million) to compensate more than 15,000 residents of the Nigerian Bodo community for oil spills in 2008. Shell Petroleum Development is “at an early stage” of reviewing the claims, the company said in a statement.

In the Ogoniland area where the Ogale community resides, oil spills have been a common occurrence since at least 1989, contaminating farmland, waterways and groundwater, according to Tuesday’s statement. The traditional fishing lifestyle of the Bille community, which is also in Rivers state, has been devastated by oil spills and peoples’ homes have been wrecked by the fuel seeping into their property.

Shell Petroleum Development said it hasn’t produced oil or gas since 1993 in Ogoniland where access is “limited following a rise in violence, threats to staff and attacks on facilities.”

Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer. Hundreds of spills take place every year in the West African nation, with pipeline ruptures caused by corrosion, poor maintenance and equipment failure, as well as by thieves and saboteurs.

Amnesty International said in November an investigation showed Shell had failed to clear four oil-spill sites in the Niger delta, months after President Muhammadu Buhari said he’s accelerating a clean-up of the area.

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