There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for thousands of victims of the 2011 Bonga crude oil spill, as an English Court sitting in the United Kingdom has begun trial with Shell as defendant.

This was disclosed by Harrison Jalla, Executive Director, Oil Spill Victims Vanguard (OSPIVV ), a Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO) to journalists in Ekpan, Uvwie Local Government Area, he said that the incident which happened 20th December, 2011 negatively impacted Communities.

He further disclosed that the NGO through him had in September 21, 2017 filed an action against Shell Group for discharging over 40,000 barrels of crude oil into the Atlantic ocean in their Bonga Field operations.

It could be recalled that 450 communities along Nigeria’s coastline between Delta and Bayelsa states, were reportedly polluted by the discharge which covered over 185 kilometers.

According to him, the situation forced fishermen to desert the sea, even as it polluted farmlands, vegetation and contaminated the environment in Ekeremo, Southern Ijaw and Brass Local Government Areas in Bayelsa.

He added that in Delta state, Burutu, Warri South, South West and North Local Government Areas were impacted saying that some riverine areas in Ondo State were reported to have been polluted from the oil spill also.

Shell had contested the case, arguing that an English Court could not hear the matter and that the case had to be tried in Nigeria.

He further disclosed that Oil Spill Victims Vanguard (OSPIVV) and other claimants won the case of jurisdiction on March 2, 2020 and the trial commenced last month.

According to Jalla, “Shell Group threw everything in the ring to contest jurisdiction of the English court to entertain the matter since 2017.But in a judgement handed down by the Hon. Justice Stuart Smith on 2nd March, 2020, the English Court assumed jurisdiction and ruled in favour of OSPIVV, individuals and community claimants in the matter.”

He spoke further, “the matter has since been heard on the 19th of November, 2020 in a case management session by both parties under a new judge, Honourable Justice Mrs. O’ Farrell which outlined how matters will progress in the main trial.

The ongoing action is to compel the Shell Group and its subsidiaries to do the clean up, rectification, restoration, compensation and damages occasioned by the negative impact of December 20, 2011 Bonga spill”.

The statement further added that the action was “propelled by gross negligence of Shell Trading and Shipping Company (STATSCO) and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) in their Bonga Field Operations”.

Expressing optimism that the claimants will win the case, Jalla told journalists that Shell is still arguing that the spill didn’t get to the shore, adding, “what Shell has to prove is that the oil spill didn’t get to shore. We have won the issue of jurisdiction and the matter is holding in London. We are 100 percent sure of victory because all the evidences are there.”

He also disclosed that a new law firm which specializes in oil and gas matters, Rosenblatt Limited had replaced the former, Johnson and Steller Solicitors, which was handling the case.

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