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High Court rejects Shell's attempt to block the Bodo community’s legal claim over major oil spill clean-up

High Court rejects Shell's attempt to block the Bodo community’s legal claim over major oil spill clean-up


In a significant legal development, the High Court has dismissed Shell's efforts to prevent a legal claim by the Bodo community in southern Nigeria regarding the clean-up operation after two substantial oil spills in 2008.

Shell's Nigerian subsidiary, SPDC, was responsible for spills that released almost half a million barrels of oil, causing extensive damage to the Bodo community's land and the largest loss of mangrove habitat in the history of oil pollution.

Fifteen years after the devastating spills, the Bodo Community continues to grapple with the aftermath as the clean-up operation, purportedly the largest in the world, remains incomplete. Despite a settlement in 2014 amounting to £55 million, the community has had to resort to legal avenues over the past nine years to compel Shell to fulflill its obligations.

In 2016, the court ruled that Shell could not obstruct the Bodo community's attempts to enforce the clean-up, allowing a mediation scheme time to progress. However, a hearing in May 2023 revealed the community's dissatisfaction with Shell's clean-up efforts. Shell sought to dismiss the claim and prevent the community from utilising independent scientific expertise to scrutinise the clean-up. Lawyers from Leigh Day, representing the Bodo community, presented preliminary scientific evidence suggesting that Shell's clean-up methodology falls short of accepted international standards, leaving hazardous contamination levels in the Bodo creek.

Mrs. Justice O'Farrell's judgment rejects Shell's attempts to strike out the Bodo community's legal claim for confirmation by independent experts that the clean-up adheres to international standards. The judge ruled that the community is entitled to have the evidence heard at a substantive trial, scheduling directions for evidence exchange and preparation for a trial on the adequacy of Shell's clean-up on 17 February 2025.

The broader implications of the Bodo Community's case come in the wake of Shell plc's announcement of the proposed sale of its Nigerian subsidiary, SPDC. Meanwhile, Leigh Day is actively pursuing claims against Shell in Nigeria for the Ogale and Bille Communities. In these cases, Shell asserts clean-up efforts but resists community attempts to access internal company documents on contamination levels.

Steve Bilko, a Leigh Day solicitor, emphasized the community's evidence indicating that Shell's clean-up methods pose serious risks to public health. He highlighted concerns for numerous Nigerian communities affected by Shell's pollution, emphasizing that proper assessment, cleaning, and compensation should precede Shell's potential sale of onshore operations in Nigeria.

This legal battle underscores the ongoing challenges faced by communities affected by environmental harm caused by oil companies and emphasizes the need for accountability and transparency in addressing such issues.