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Shell escaped liability for oil spills in Nigeria for years. Then four farmers took them to court — and won

CNN

Shell escaped liability for oil spills in Nigeria for years. Then four farmers took them to court — and won

Shell Nigeria spokesman Bamidele Odugbesan told CNN the company had agreed a settlement with the four farmers from Goi and Oruma communities after last year’s ruling, and that representatives are “working amiably on the actualization of the judgment.”

Hundreds of oil spills every year

Shell is the largest oil operator in the Niger Delta, Africa’s largest oil-producing region. Its residents face high poverty rates and a largely degraded environment, owing to hundreds of spills every year.

“We have groundwater polluted with benzene 900 times above WHO level, we have farmlands with poor yields, rivers that are barely fishable, neonatal deaths numbering thousands yearly as a result of spills. We have reduced neuroplasticity of the brain as a result of oil pollution,” Niger Delta activist Saatah Nubari told CNN.

“The Niger Delta is a graveyard of the living and we will never know how much harm has been done until we audit the entire environment,” Nubari also said.

For many years, Shell has attributed most spills to theft and sabotage by locals.

“Over 95 percent of the spill incidents in our operations are caused by sabotage,” Odugbesan, the Shell Nigeria spokesman, told CNN.

“Throughout our operations globally, in 2021, it’s only in Nigeria that we recorded crude theft. And this has implications on our cost. When our facilities are tampered with and there’s a spill, we spend money to stop the spill, fix our facility, clean up and remediate the environment,” Odugbesan said.

Operational problems

Nubari believes oil companies are “untouchable in Nigeria and unaccountable and that is why communities and individuals approach foreign courts to get justice.”

Williams agrees it is difficult to hold multinational companies accountable through government agencies in Nigeria.

Shell Nigeria spokesman Odugbesan denied that Shell is untouchable in Nigeria and stated that the company paid out around 50 billion naira in 2021 (around $111 million as of last year) after being sued by another community.

For Williams, his lengthy David-versus-Goliath legal battle has come with highs and lows.

“In 2008, I was arrested on a Shell facility when I went to expose that Shell was still flaring gas, despite a 2005 court ruling which ordered them to stop gas flaring in Iwhrekan community, in the Niger Delta,” he told CNN.

Williams lauded other court decisions that have signaled wins for the Niger Delta’s aggrieved communities.

“After January 29th, there have been a lot of positive court decisions within and outside Nigeria, some with massive monetary awards. There are great positives that these judgments have brought to protect the Niger Delta’s environment.”

FULL ARTICLE 

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