* Shell to face case under British jurisdiction - lawyers
* Oil major accepts responsibility for spills
* U.N. to release report on Nigeria spills on Thursday
By Joe Brock
ABUJA, Aug 3 Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) has
agreed that a Nigerian community impacted by its oil spills can
seek compensation in a British court, lawyers in the case have
said, potentially opening itself up to bigger future financial
and reputational damages.
Shell said it does not comment on the legal process, which
could take several months to reach a conclusion.
It has already accepted responsibility and promised to pay
some form of compensation for the spills which took place in
2008 and 2009, destroying parts of the Bodo fishing communities
in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta wetlands.
Protest groups have increasingly tried to seek compensation
against western oil companies in the firms' home jurisdictions,
where they get wider media coverage and usually larger payouts.
"SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria) has
always acknowledged that the two spills which affected the Bodo
community, and which are the subject of this legal action, were
operational," a statement from Shell said.
"SPDC is committed to cleaning up all spills when they
occur, no matter what the cause."
Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers representing the Bodo
communities, who live in the snaking, oil-rich creeks and
waterways, said the case was the first of its kind because it
would be held under British jurisdiction.
"SPDC has agreed to formally accept liability and concede to
the jurisdiction of the UK," a statement on the law firm's
"This is one of the most devastating oil spills the world
has ever seen and yet it had gone almost unnoticed until we
received instructions to bring about a claim against Shell in
The spills follow decades of damage to the environment in
Nigeria, according to rights groups. The lawyers and rights
groups have said the amount of oil in these two spillages alone
was approximately 20 percent of the amount leaked into the Gulf
of Mexico following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
"BP did more in 6-months for the U.S. communities than Shell
has done in 50 years for the Ogoniland," said Audrey Gaughran,
director of the Global Thematic Issues Programme at human rights
group Amnesty International.
The news comes a day before the United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP) presents an independent, scientific assessment
of oil pollution in Ogoniland to Nigerian President Goodluck
Jonathan in the capital Abuja.
Shell stopped pumping oil from Ogoniland in the early 1990s
after a sustained campaign, led by writer and activist Ken
Saro-Wiwa, who claimed the Anglo-Dutch major had destroyed its
communities. Saro-Wiwa was later hanged by the Nigerian military
government, provoking international outrage.
Shell, which still owns pipelines and oil infrastructure in
Ogoniland that can leak despite the company not operating there,
said most spills in the Niger Delta are caused by sabotage and
theft, including 13 spills in the Bodo area this year.
(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin, Dmitry Zhdannikov and
Gerard Wynn in London; Writing by Joe Brock)