Shell to negotiate with Nigerians over oil spill compensation
By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON (Reuters) - Compensation talks will begin in Nigeria on Monday between lawyers for Royal Dutch Shell and for 15,000 Nigerian villagers who say their livelihoods were destroyed by oil spills from pipelines operated by the company.
The Nigerians launched a suit against Shell at the High Court in London in March 2012, seeking millions of dollars in compensation for two oil spills in 2008 that polluted the waterways of the Bodo fishing communities in the Niger Delta.
The legal action is being closely watched by the industry and by environmentalists for precedents that could have an impact on other big pollution claims against oil majors.
A vast maze of mangrove swamps and creeks, the Niger Delta is home to communities of subsistence farmers and fishermen living alongside the multi-billion-dollar oil industry.
"They want to be fairly compensated for their losses from the time the spill took place until the oil is cleaned up and the Bodo Creek is returned to its natural state," said Martyn Day of the Nigerians' London law firm Leigh Day.
A Shell spokesman confirmed that talks would begin on Monday between Leigh Day and lawyers for the Anglo-Dutch firm. They will take place in Port Harcourt, the main city in the Delta, and will be attended by representatives of the Bodo communities.
The region has been plagued by a range of problems including sabotage, kidnappings of oil workers for ransom, theft of crude from pipelines, armed rebellions, and conflict between communities over clean-up contracts or compensation deals.
Shell accepts responsibility for the Bodo spills but the two sides disagree about the volume spilt and the number of local people who lost their livelihoods as a result. A previous round of compensation talks broke down in 2012, before the lawsuit. Continued...