UK court blocks Niger Delta pollution claims against Shell

gavelA British court on Thursday threw out a request by over 40,000 Niger Delta residents to sue and claim damages against the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell in a case of oil spills in the region.

That was after the  court agreed with the multinational’s argument that the high-profile case should be heard in Nigeria.

Bar and Bench Watch reports that the claimants had argued they could only get justice in British courts.

U.K. law firm Leigh Day promised to appeal.

The lawsuits were filed by the Ogale and Bille people alleging that decades of oil spills have fouled the water and destroyed the lives of thousands of fishermen and farmers in the Niger River Delta, where a Shell subsidiary has operated since the 1950s.

They brought their fight to Shell’s home base because they say the Nigerian courts are too corrupt.

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The case, according to a statement by the Amnesty International, could set a precedent for holding other UK-based multinationals to account for abuses committed overseas should the request of the claimants be successful.

“This ruling will have wide-ranging implications for corporations based in the UK that abuse human rights abroad. If the court rules that the communities cannot have their case heard in the UK, it would effectively be a green light for UK multinationals to profit from human rights abuses and environmental destruction around the world,” Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, Audrey Gaughran, said.

But the judgment was entered against the Nigerian claimants.

Two separate legal actions have been brought against Shell on behalf of more than 42,000 people from the Ogale and Bille communities in Nigeria’s Rivers State, who live with appalling pollution caused by oil spills.

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Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, SPDC, had argued that the case is outside UK jurisdiction and should be heard in Nigeria.

Amnesty International and other organisations have exposed how rural communities affected by oil pollution frequently face insurmountable challenges when trying to take Shell to court in Nigeria.

In a November 3, 2015, report, ‘Clean it up: Shell’s False claims about oil spills in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International documented on-going contamination at four oil spill sites, and alleged that the oil giant did not clean up the affected areas years ago as claimed