The Britain’s High Court has began hearing of lawsuits on Tuesday, November 22, filed against Shell Oil and Gas Company in Nigeria by host communities for decades of oil spill in the Niger Delta region.
According to report from Aljazeera, lawyers for more than 40,000 Nigerians are demanding action from Shell to clean up oil mess they created which has cause tremendous damage to lands and water bodies in the area. The claim made specifically by the Ogale and Bille people and led by Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, leader of Ogale people, unveiled that oil spills have fouled the waters and destroyed the lives of thousands of fishermen and farmers in the Niger River Delta, where a Shell subsidiary has operated since the 1950s.
According Okpabi, the fight was brought to Shell’s home base because the Nigerian courts are too corrupt. Speaking to the Associated Press news agency on the eve of the hearing, he displayed four bottles of water from his homeland on a table to show why his subjects are suing Royal Dutch Shell in a London court. Okpabi said:
“Let the shareholders of Shell who are residents of the advanced world, like Britain, let them see a representative of a kingdom that is being destroyed for them to have money. That’s blood money.”
The two communities in Ogoniland insisted that Shell, incorporated in the UK, must assume responsibility for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd, SPDC.
Meanwhile, the oil manufacturing company argues the case should be heard in Nigeria, pointing out it involves its Nigerian subsidiary, which runs a joint venture with the government, and Nigerian plaintiffs. SPDC also said it has not produced any oil or gas in the region since 1993.
During the court hearing, it argued the area is heavily affected by crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining, adding that the legal challenge is speculative and full of “legal and evidential weaknesses”.
However, the paramount ruler of the Ogale people said the Royal Dutch Shell in London calls the shots for its Nigerian subsidiary and so should be held accountable in Britain.
“My system cannot give me justice said. There is only one place that can grant me justice. That is why I am here.”
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Recall that Shell was the first oil company to operate in Nigeria, starting production in 1958 and activities in the area sparked a mass protest by the Ogoni people. The decision of former military dictatorship of Sani Abacha to send troops to shut down the protests turned the oil-producing south into a war zone.
Subsequently, one of the leaders of those protests, Ken Saro-Wiwa, a writer and environmental activist whose opposition helped stop Shell’s production in Ogoniland, was killed, along with eight others during Abacha’s military regime.