Landmark case: Nigerian villagers sue Shell over oil spills

LONDON — Around 11,000 Nigerian villagers who say their livelihoods were ruined in oil spills launched a legal battle Friday to seek compensation from Shell.

The case marks the first time any oil firm has faced claims in the U.K. from a community in the developing world for environmental damage caused by oil extraction operations, the villagers’ lawyers said.

Shell, the largest international firm operating in Nigeria, admitted liability for two oil spills in August 2011. However, the two sides dispute the amount of oil spilled and the extent of the damage caused, one of the villagers’ London-based lawyers told msnbc.com.

At the crux of the disagreement is whether the spills that devastated the area were due to so-called operational failures on the part of Shell, or if they were the result of sabotage, illegal refining and theft.

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About fbrinleybruton

F. Brinley Bruton has been a journalist for 15, and worked in Kabul, Mexico City, Philadelphia, and New York City. Now based in London, she is a editor, producer and senior writer at NBCNews.com, a leader in breaking news and original journalism online that gets over a billion page views a month. Before joining MSNBC.com -- which became NBCNews.com in 2012 -- Brinley wrote about security, business and finance, international development and women’s issues. She has worked at Reuters in London and New York, and her pieces have appeared in the New Statesman, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Long Island Newsday, The Star-Ledger, and Arabies Trends, among others. She also wrote and blogged for AlertNet, Reuters’ humanitarian news website.
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