More than 13,000 people and 17 institutions in the Niger Delta communities of Bille and Ogale have filed a claims register with London's High Court alleging environmental destruction, loss of livelihood and groundwater pollution caused by Shell oil spills. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 2 (UPI) -- More than 13,000 people and 17 institutions in the Niger Delta communities of Bille and Ogale have filed a claims register with London's High Court in a lawsuit against oil giant Shell over devastating oil spills between 2011 and 2013.
The filing by British firm Leigh Day states that 11,317 people and 17 institutions from Ogale and 2,335 individuals from Bille have joined the suit alleging that Shell oil spills have caused environmental destruction in the Niger Delta, loss of livelihood and water pollution.
The suit seeks to have Shell clean up the spills "to international standards" and provide compensation for loss and livelihood "given that these rural communities' ability to farm and fish has been largely destroyed."
While Shell denies legal responsibility for the spills, the suit states the company has conceded it is legally obligated to clean the area.
"This case raises important questions about the responsibilities of oil and gas companies. It appears that Shell is seeking to leave the Niger Delta free of any legal obligation to address the environmental devastation caused by oil spills from its infrastructure over many decades," Leigh Day partner Daniel Leader said in a statement.
"At a time when the world is focused on 'the just transition,' this raises profound questions about the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for legacy and ongoing environmental pollution," he said.
Citing Shell's own reports, the suit said the company has spilled more than 17.5 million barrels of oil in the Niger Delta.
"Experts estimate that the inhabitants of the Niger Delta have experienced oil spills on a par with the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska every year for the past 50 years, a yearly average of about 240,000 barrels," the suit said.
Oil contamination of groundwater supplies is a major allegation in the lawsuit.
"The Ogale Stream, which is the community's main source of water for agriculture, drinking and fishing, has been severely polluted by oil contamination. This has killed fish and contaminated the community's drinking water. The oil pollution has also ruined the community's farmland," the suit states.
Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, in a statement urged Shell to do its part to clean the pollution.
"Had this level of contamination and pollution occurred in Europe or North America, it is hard to imagine that there would not have been swift and severe consequences and legal redress," Ojigho said. "Shell should clean up the pollution the oil has caused in these communities and compensate those whose livelihoods have been devastated and whose health has been harmed."
In a defense filing in 2021, Shell denied its parent company is liable in the case.