Judgment on Shell accountability over Nigerian oil spills due in London High Court
The High Court in London will give its ruling on Thursday 26th January 2017 in the latest legal action brought in the UK by Nigerian villagers against Royal Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd.
The judgment follows a 4-day hearing in November 2016 on whether the English Courts can hear two legal claims on behalf of over 40,000 Nigerians for extensive environmental damage caused by oil pollution to two separate communities in the Niger Delta.
The first claim is being brought on behalf of 2,335 individuals from the Bille Kingdom of Nigeria who are mostly fishermen who claim their environment has been devastated by oil spills over the past five years.
The second claim is brought on behalf of the Ogale Community in Ogoniland which consists of roughly 40,000 people. The community has been subjected to repeated oil spills from Shell’s pipelines over several years which have still not been cleaned up.
The appalling levels of pollution the Ogale community was carefully documented by the United Nations Environment Programme in their 2011 report.
In March 2016 the Technology and Construction Court in London. agreed that the two legal cases could proceed to the next stage through the High Court.
Lawyers for the Nigerians communities argue that Royal Dutch Shell, who has its headquarters in the UK, controls and directs its’ Nigerian subsidiary and should ensure that its operations do not systematically pollute the environment.
Both Royal Dutch Shell and Shell Nigeria do not deny the communities have been subjected to systematic oil pollution which has not been clean up. However, they argue that the parent company in London has no responsibility for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary and that the cases should be heard in Nigeria and not in the English Courts.
The two separate legal actions are being brought by law firm Leigh Day who represented the Bodo Community against Shell in an unprecedented environmental claim resulting in Shell agreeing to pay compensation package of £55m to the Community and 15,600 Nigerian fishermen whose livelihoods had been destroyed by Shell’s oil pollution. However, hundreds of Niger Delta communities remain blighted by oil pollution.