By Charlotte Young
After years of living in a community devastated by oil spills, the Bodo people in Nigeria can finally exhale a bit. Msnbc.com reports that oil giant Shell, which is responsible for oil spills in Nigeria, has accepted responsibility for two large spills and will compensate the community in an English court for the environmental damage to their land.
The case is considered the first of its kind because it will take place in a court in the UK, where cases usually have more media coverage and larger payouts.
“The mood music is changing — oil companies are going to have to start no longer employing a double standard for the developing world and apply the same standards for America and Europe,” Daniel Leader, one of the lawyers for the Bodo people told msnbc.com.
Protest groups have become increasingly more vocal in attempts to seek compensation against large western oil companies. The Bodo people, comprised of a community of about 69,000, live in Bodo, Ogoniland, along the oil-rich creeks of the Niger delta.
While their eco-system and livelihood have been threatened by the activities of western oil companies for five decades, Shell has recently claimed responsibility for two large oil spills in 2008 and 2009.
Shell stopped pumping oil from Ogoniland in the early 1990s, but still owns pipelines and oil infrastructures in the region that can leak. Rights groups claim that oil companies have done decades worth of damage to the environment in Nigeria.
According to Reuters, the two spills in 2008 and 2009 amount to about 20 percent of the amount spilled into the Gulf of America by BP during the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Audrey Gaughran, director of the Global Thematic Issues Programme at Amnesty International, tells msnbc.com that “BP did more in 6-months for the U.S. communities than Shell has done in 50 years for the Ogoniland.”
But this current case opens Shell up to possibilities of greater financial loss in the future. Ben Amunwa, a spokesperson for the British group PLATFORM, an international energy company monitoring group, says that the decision in this case could leave Shell facing a host of claims stemming back to fifty years of environmental desolation along the Niger delta.
A spokesperson from Shell’s Nigerian company tells msnbc.com that the company acknowledges the two big spills, but says that most of the other spills that took place, including 13 in the Bodo area this year, are the result of “sabotage and theft.”