Court rules case over oil spills will have to be heard in Nigeria
by Felicity Collier
OIL giant Shell successfully blocked more than 40,000 Nigerians from holding it to account for oil spills in the English courts yesterday.
The complainants will have to take Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) and its subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) to court in Nigeria, the High Court in London ruled yesterday.
One action was brought on behalf of the Ogale community in Ogoniland, consisting of 40,000 people.
The other case relates to 2,335 individuals from the Bille Kingdom of Nigeria, mostly fisherfolk.
British lawyers for the communities insisted that the only route to “justice” is in England, where the firm is incorporated.
Human rights charity Amnesty warned that the ruling “sets an especially dangerous precedent” and it “could allow UK multinationals to commit abuses overseas with impunity.”
Amnesty said it had hoped to build on a landmark settlement in January 2015, when a British law firm won against Shell, who agreed to pay £55 million to the Bodo community in the Niger Delta. Shell originally offered just £4,000.
Amnesty said that in 2015 Shell was forced to admit that for years it had understated the size of the oil spills.
“Only the UK court process was able to bring this to light,” it said.
Daniel Leader, a partner at British law firm Leigh Day, which represents the two communities, said: “It is our view that the judgement 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 judgements of the European Court of Justice and the Dutch Court of Appeal.”
Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, tribal king of the Ogale community, said: “There is no hope of justice in the Nigerian courts. We still very much believe in the British justice system and so we are going to appeal this decision.”
Chief Temebo, spokesman for 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.”