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The High Court of Great Britain today began a hearing on two cases brought to it by two communities from the Niger Delta alleging that oil spills from Shell-operated fields contaminated the local water.
A tribal king, Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi of the Ogale community, arrived in London for the hearing, bringing with him plastic bottles filled with water from the Ogale region in the Niger Delta, claiming that it had caused a number of suspicious diseases among his tribesmen.
The plaintiffs in this case are around 40,000 inhabitants of the Ogale and Bille communities, which, according to Shell, have suffered the consequences of “crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining.”
The supermajor, which has argued the case should be tried in Nigeria since it concerns its local subsidiary SPDC and not the parent company, added that these are the most common causes of oil pollution in the Delta.
Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal quoted Shell as saying oil companies operating in Nigeria had enough problems as it was, highlighting the company’s plans to gradually reduce its presence in the country, especially with the flurry of pipeline bombings by militant groups claiming to fight for a fairer share of the oil profits for the Delta communities.
What Shell is most concerned about is that if the two cases are decided in favor of the plaintiffs, both it and its peers could face further legal action from communities claiming to have suffered damage from their operations in the Niger Delta and possibly elsewhere.
The point of the hearing, however, is to establish whether the cases should be heard in London and the Hague, where Shell is incorporated.
The two communities are demanding US$124 million (GBP100 mln) in compensation.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.