Niger Delta pollution claim blocked by UK court

UK high court refuses to hear Niger Delta oil spill claim against Shell.


Britain’s high court has ruled on Thursday that two Nigerian communities cannot pursue an oil spill case against Anglo-Dutch company Shell in the UK courts.

The High Court stated that members of the Ogale and Bille communities based in the Niger Delta would have to pursue the case in Nigerian courts. The case relates to complaints made by more than 40,000 Niger Delta residents who are demanding that Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary Shell Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) take action to clear up decades worth of oil spills in the region. 

Shell claims that the main sources of pollution in Ogale and Bille is due to “crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining”. Leigh Day, the law firm representing the villagers said that it would appeal the decision, according to the company’s Twitter account.


In a statement, Daniel Leader, a partner at Leigh Day, said: “The Ogale and Bille communities are surprised by this Judgment and have instructed us to lodge an appeal. It is our view that the judgment failed to consider critical evidence which shows the decisive direction and control Royal Dutch Shell exercises over its Nigerian subsidiary. It is also inconsistent with recent judgments of the European Court of Justice and the Dutch Court of Appeal.”

Meanwhile, Chief Temebo, spokesman of the Bille Council of Chiefs said: “If the claim does not continue in the English courts, we have no hope that the environment will ever be cleaned up and the fish will ever return to our waters. Shell will do nothing unless they are ordered to by the English courts.”

In 2015, Shell agreed to pay $55m in a separate case brought by the Bodo community in an effort to avoid a potentially embarrassing London high court case. The new case involves two claims, one brought by more than 2,000 fishermen and their families in the Bille kingdom, and another by about 40,000 people in the Ogale community in Ogoniland, in the oil-rich Niger delta. Shell has been producing oil in Nigeria for nearly 70 years.                     

Taku Dzimwasha

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