Shell has an abysmal history in Nigeria, and operations continue despite spill after record-breaking spill. People who live there are tired of the mess (think the Gulf Coast after the BP spill, but worse), which the company has yet to clean up.
So 35 Nigerian villages are taking a unit of Royal Dutch Shell to court, claiming that 560,000 barrels of oil spilled over a period of weeks before Shell finally stopped the flow from its pipelines—and that the company's slow response has destroyed the environment and devastated local livelihoods.
The spills, estimated by experts from video footage of the damage at the time, came before any other spills or damage occurred in the communities, said lawyer Martyn Day, a senior partner of Leigh Day & Co., which is representing the villages.
Lawyers for the communities filed the suit in London, where the transnational corporation has one of its head offices, out of concerns of not being able to get a fair trial in Nigeria. Shell agreed to the jurisdiction of the suit.
The BBC reports that the case is said to be the first time that Shell is facing claims in the UK from the developing world for environmental damage.
More about the impact of the spills from the BBC:
Martyn Day, of the solicitors Leigh Day, who is representing the Bodos, said the spills had devastated a once-thriving fishing community of some 50,000 people.
"I've been around Bodo on a number of occasions and you just have to walk round, it looks like a World War I scene, where the oil has totally destroyed much of the local environment and the fish, which particularly thrive in the mangroves, have basically disappeared from the area," he told the BBC's Today programme.