Nigeria: Ogoni people hail London court ruling against Shell

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has hailed the landmark decision of the London Technological and Construction Court, which held that Shell would be liable for damages inflicted on individuals and communities even if the cause of such damage was sabotage done to its infrastructure, if it has failed to take enough steps to protect the assets including pipelines from vandalism as well as tampering.

The Bodo community in Gokana local government council of Ogoni had dragged the transnational oil corporation before the court over the oil spills of 2008 and 2009, which devastated their environment.

"The ruling is not only courageous and relieving but also represent a new judicial movement towards holding Shell accountable for its decades of ecological war on our people, the MOSOP president, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara said today.

The decision is unambiguous and passed the message that Shell can no longer mask behind sabotage to deny the Ogoni and other oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta of their inalienable right to safe and clean environment, and compensation", Mr. Pyagbara further said.

"The simple meaning of the ruling is that those affected by oil spills and related oil production impacts could demand compensation from Shell or any other investor whether the cause of the spill has been sabotage or otherwise", he explained.

Mr. Justice Akenhead of the Technological and Construction Court, London, in the groundbreaking decision said that "it was not enough to employ the services of the police or other security personnel including the soldiers to protect her field facilities including pipelines but also responsible for taking additional effective measures including installing leak detection systems, surveillance equipment and anti- tamper equipment to protect the pipelines". "If these steps have not been taken, the investor (Shell) could not lay claim to having adequately and effectively protected its pipelines".

MOSOP therefore condemn in unmistakable terms, Shell's response to the ruling, which attempted to deceive the unsuspecting general public by creating the impression that the hailed decision was in its favour. As far as MOSOP is concerned, the court's ruling is clear and no doubt in favour of the plaintiffs. And we call on the general public to discountenance Shell's reaction.

MOSOP would thus advice all individuals and communities in Ogoni and other parts of the Niger Delta region affected by the questionable operations of the oil multinationals especially Shell to commence the process of peacefully demanding adequate compensation and related benefits from the polluting investor.

On the other hand, we would advise that the ruling should now prompt Shell to implement genuine reforms regarding its corporate conduct in the Niger Delta region. We would as well demand her emplacement of an appropriate and effective mechanism to bring together all stakeholders to ensure an immediate commencement of the restoration of the Ogoni environment in line with the recommendations of the UNEP environmental report on Ogoniland.

Whilst Nigeria's law forbids payment of compensation for damages to individual and community assets caused by sabotage to investor infrastructure, Shell has over the years been exploiting this provision against the interest of affected communities and individuals.

In order to evade compensating victims of its operations, even where cause of damage has been confirmed to be the result of operational failure, it still hinge it on sabotage and take untoward measures to frustrate affected individuals and communities from obtaining compensation and related benefits.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) commissioned in 2007 by the Federal Government of Nigeria to undertake the study of the Ogoni environmental situation had in its report released in 2011 indicted Shell for not complying with even her own minimum environmental standard and blamed her for the degradation of the Ogoni environment. It also indicted the company for failure to comply with the Nigerian law. We are yet to see any reasonable step taken by the firm to turn a new leaf.

With its power and influence on the Nigeria government, successive Nigerian regimes have been unable to enforce relevant oil industry laws that would have put the oil and gas companies especially Shell in check hence they carry on as if they are above the laws of the land.

Although, Shell has refused to accept that her field assets believed to be the cause of the frequent oil spills in the area are old, it has continued to fail to tell the integrity or age of these infrastructures. Instead, it has kept blaming oil spills on oil theft and bunkering yet there is nothing on ground to show that it has taken any reasonable step to prevent oil theft and illegal bunkering or artisanal refining.

This is the time for Shell to account for its atrocities in Ogoni and other Niger Delta communities.


Bari-ara Kpalap, Media/Public Affairs Advisor to the MOSOP President

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Date: 26/06/2014




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