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Shell responds to UK lawsuit, says oil spills are caused by illegal refining

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has responded to the lawsuit filed against it in a London High Court, arguing that oil spills in the Niger Delta are a result of illegal refining.

According to Reuters, a Shell spokesperson explained that the majority of spills related to the claims in the lawsuit were caused by illegal third-party interference, including pipeline sabotage. But the spokesperson said that the oil company would continue cleaning affected areas.

  • “We believe litigation does little to address the real problem in the Niger Delta: oil spills due to crude oil theft, illegal refining, and sabotage, with which SPDC is constantly faced and which cause the most environmental damage,” the spokesperson said.

The backstory: Guardian reports that 13,652 claims have been made by individuals as well as churches and schools as of January 2023. These claims are from two Rivers state communities – Ogale and Bille. The communities want Shell to clean up their polluted areas and pay compensation for the losses they have suffered as a result of the oil spills in their communities which have affected farms, and water bodies.

  • Reuters also reported that UK-based law firm, Leigh Day said it had filed claims on behalf of 11,317 people and 17 institutions including churches and schools from the Ogale community for compensation for loss of livelihoods and damage against Shell.
  • According to Leigh Day, the claim from Ogale adds to one brought by members of the Bille community in 2015. The law firm also said that a case management hearing is to be set in Spring 2023, ahead of the full trial which is likely to occur in 2024.

Ogale community: According to Leigh Day’s website, Ogale is a fishing and farming community. It relies on the Ogale Stream which runs through the land for farming, drinking, washing, and fishing. The Community also used boreholes, but these are now so polluted that they are not safe for consumption or use. At least 40 oil spills from Shell’s infrastructure in the Ogale community since 1989 have caused serious contamination of the community’s land and waterways.

Bille community: The Leigh Day website also highlighted that between 2011 and 2013, oil spills from Shell’s apparatus caused massive oil spills into the rivers around the community. An estimated 13,200 hectares of mangrove swamps have been damaged by pollution. This has killed most of the fish in the rivers, and Bille’s fishing population has been left without a source of food.

In case you missed it: In December 2022, Nairametrics reported that SPDC had agreed to pay €‎15 million to three communities over oil spills. The communities are Goi in Rivers state, Oruma in Bayelsa state, and Ikot Ada Udo in Akwa Ibom state.

  • The compensation followed a court case filed against the oil company at the Court of Appeal of The Hague. At the end of the trial, the company was found guilty and was ordered to pay for damages to farmers.

For the record: Reuters reported that Shell announced on Thursday, February 2 that it delivered a record $40 billion profit in 2022, capping a tumultuous year in which a surge in energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine allowed it to hand shareholders unprecedented returns.

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