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Bodo oil spills and litigation
You will have seen in the last few weeks a series of news stories about a large number of people in the community of Bodo in the Niger Delta taking us to court in London.
This is the consequence of two spills in 2008 that were a result of our operations there. We very much regret the damage that these spills have caused the environment in the area. At the time, we immediately acknowledged responsibility for the spills and set about cleaning the impacted areas, as is our policy and as set out in Nigerian law. Serious security concerns prevented immediate access, including holding hostage the community contractor we engaged to assist with containment and recovery of the spilt oil.
Clean up operations did then take place, although this was not certified and the remediation aspect, for which contracts had been awarded, could not commence because others spills caused by crude oil theft and other illegal activities had re-impacted the areas already cleaned. We have always accepted we should compensate, in accordance with Nigerian law, those affected by our spills but, after the spills, we were approached by various lawyers each claiming to represent the community, and this seriously delayed the process.
There are also long standing disputes between the Bodo Council of Traditional Rulers and the paramount ruler and some members of the Council of Chiefs and there was, and still is, pending litigation in Nigeria between these two groups as to the rightful authority to represent the community. It was while we were still trying to resolve these issues and pay compensation that the letter of claim on behalf of the Bodo community was served in London in April 2011 and proceedings commenced in the English courts.
Clearly we are keen to resolve this issue and compensate those who have really been affected by our operational spills. We tried to resolve the issue without it going to court, which is why we took part in a formal mediation process. We had high hopes for this approach. Sadly for all concerned, the expectations from solicitors to the community were simply too high and disproportionate to Nigerian standards to allow a mediated process to work.
We will follow the legal process regarding compensation, as we have committed to since the spills. We are commited to cleaning up all spills from our facilities in the Niger Delta, even when they are caused (unlike these two) by oil theft or sabotage. We see a future where oil pollution in the Niger Delta is eliminated, and cases like this are consigned to history. We are also committed to helping find new solutions to the broader problems both the communities and all oil companies face in the Niger Delta. We are actively seeking new solutions, and will enter into dialogue with those proposing them from Local, State and National Government, other oil companies and civil society representatives.
We continue to work with this as our goal.