In a potentially ground-breaking development, The Guardian reported today that Shell has accepted liability for two massive oil spills which devastated farmland in Bodo, Ogoniland in 2008.
Shell faces a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars after accepting full liability for two massive oil spills that devastated a Nigerian community of 69,000 people and may take at least 20 years to clean up. Experts who studied video footage of the spills at Bodo in Ogoniland say they could together be as large as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, when 10m gallons of oil destroyed the remote coastline. Until now, Shell has claimed that less than 40,000 gallons were spilt inNigeria. Papers seen by the Guardian show that following a class action suit in London over the past four months, the company has accepted responsibility for the 2008 double rupture of the Bodo-Bonny trans-Niger pipeline that pumps 120,000 barrels of oil a day though the community.
Shell’s admission of liability could open the floodgates for further lawsuits in the UK over the company’s daily oil spills in the Niger Delta region. Local human rights groups welcomed the outcome.
“The news that Shell has accepted liability in Britain will be greeted with joy in the delta. The British courts may now be inundated with legitimate complaints,” said Patrick Naagbanton, coordinator for the Centre of Environment and Human Rights in Port Harcourt.
Expect further bad news for Shell this week, as the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) is due to release its report on the full extent of the damage caused by oil spills in Ogoni.
Later this week the company will be heavily implicated by the UN for the environmental disaster in the Niger delta which has seen more than 7,000 oil spills in the low lying swamps and farmland since 1989. Shell first discovered oil in the Niger delta in 1956. According to Amnesty International, more than 13m barrels of oil have been spilt in the delta, twice as much as by BP in last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report, funded by Shell, will be presented to president Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday and is expected to be released on Friday in London. UNEP’s report, the first peer-reviewed scientific study of more than 60 spills, is expected to say that oil pollution in Ogoniland is much worse than previously believed, having sunk deep into the water table. Many spills have not been cleared up since 1970 and the effects on the local economy, health and development have been severe. The report will not apportion blame for individual spills.