Lago, Nigeria – Lawyers for more than 40,000 Nigerian citizens are demanding tangible action from Shell Oil Company to clean up oil spills they are accused of causing in the West African nation where they drilled.
A UK’s high court is hearing lawsuits brought by law firm Ogale & Bille on behalf of Nigerians accusing the British oil giant for alleged oil spills that the company refuses to clean.
Shell drills oil wells in Nigeria and has been doing so for decades.
The oil spills have fouled the water and destroyed the lives of thousands of farmers and fishermen in the Niger River Delta, where a Shell subsidiary has been operating since the 1950s.
Illustrating evidence of the environmental pollution and damages caused by Shell’s actions, Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, leader of Nigeria’s Ogale people, unpacked four bottles of water from his homeland and lined them up on a table to show why his subjects are suing Royal Dutch Shell in a London court.
The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit charged that the Nigerian water is contaminated with oil and cancer-causing compounds such as benzene. It is what his people drink every day.
“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,” he told the international news groups on the eve the hearing. “That’s blood money.”
Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant argues that the case should be heard in Nigeria, pointing out it involves its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC, which runs a joint venture with the government, and Nigerian plaintiffs.
But the Nigerian plaintiff contend that they brought their fight to Shell’s home base because they say the Nigerian courts are too corrupt, a fact which is supported by the arrest of senior justices in the Nigerian judiciary.
Legal analysts say this might prevent multinational corporations that go into Africa and do as they please as long as they can bribe their way through.