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    Shell in High Court over Nigeria Claims



The High Court in London will begin to hear arguments starting November 21 over whether it may hear two claims against Shell by over 40,000 Nigerians.

by: Mark Smedley

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Shell in High Court over Nigeria Claims

The High Court in London will begin to hear arguments during a four-day hearing starting November 21 on whether it may hear two legal claims on behalf of over 40,000 Nigerians against Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC over environmental damage caused by oil pollution to two Niger Delta communities, according to a statement by lawyers at Leigh Day who are representing them.

The first claim is being brought on behalf of 2,335 individuals from the Bille kingdom of Nigeria, mostly fishermen, who say 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, which claims that repeated oil spills from Shell’s pipelines have still not been cleaned up. Oil spills in the area were documented by the UN Environment Programme in its 2011 report.

UNEP sampling in Ogoniland, 2011 (Photo credit: UN Environmental Programme)

Shell in a statement said that both the Bille and Ogale areas have been heavily impacted by crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining. It says these remain the main sources of pollution across the Niger Delta. It adds that Shell has produced no oil or gas in Ogoniland since 1993 and that access to the area has been limited following a rise in violence, threats to staff and attacks on facilities.  

“The Bille and Ogale communities have chosen to bring these claims in the UK instead of in Nigeria, whose laws govern our operations.  We are contesting the jurisdiction of the English court over these claims.  We believe that allegations concerning Nigerian plaintiffs in dispute with a Nigerian company [SPDC], over issues which took place in Nigeria, should be heard in Nigeria,” said Shell in a statement.

In March 2016 the UK Technology and Construction Court agreed that the two legal cases could proceed to the next stage through the London High Court, where Shell is based.

Separately in May 2016, Nigeria’s federal government filed a $6.5bn (1.3 trillion naira) claim against Shell over oil spilled on December 20, 2011 on behalf of 350 communities in the Delta and Bayelsa states in the Niger Delta region. 

In January 2015, Shell settled a separate long-running case brought before the London High Court by Leigh Day on behalf of 15,600 fishermen in the Bodo area in the Rivers State in Nigeria's Niger Delta with a payout of £55mn ($68mn).


Mark Smedley