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African king sues Shell over Niger Delta oil spills

Royal Dutch Shell is being sued by an African king in a second case related to two oil spills at Bodo in the Niger Delta.

Shell is already facing a class action on behalf of 69,000 people in Bodo over the spills in 2008. Photo: GETTY

Rowena Mason

By 9:00PM BST 06 Aug 2011

The suit was filed at London’s High Court less than two weeks ago on behalf of King Felix Sunday Berebon of Bodo and 18 other parties.

Shell and its joint venture with the Nigerian government, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), were already facing a class action on behalf of 69,000 people in Bodo over the spills in 2008.

In this first case, SPDC said it will take responsibility and pay compensation. It is currently in negotiations over a settlement and the claim against Shell, the parent company, has ceased.

However, the joint venture moved to quash early estimates that the case could cost it upwards of $210m (£128m) in compensation, saying this was “misguided and massively in excess of the true position”. Damages are likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

The second case, filed on behalf of King Felix Sunday Berebon, is understood to be at a much earlier stage of negotiation.

Ogoniland in the Niger Delta has seen millions of barrels of oil spilt by various companies in past decades. UN figures show more than 6,800 spills between 1976 and 2001.

Shell admits that 4,000 barrels were spilt in the 2008 leaks, which were caused by operational failure. But it says the vast majority of spills are the result of illegal activity.

“Even when, as is true in the great majority of cases, spills are caused by illegal activity such as sabotage or theft, we are also committed to cleaning up spilt oil and restoring the surrounding land,” said Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of SPDC in an open letter.

The class action suit was brought by Leigh Day & Co. The firm’s Martyn Day, acting on behalf of the Bodo Community plaintiffs, declined to comment.

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