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UK Supreme Court says polluted Nigerian communities can sue Shell in English courts

UK Supreme Court has ruled that Shell can be sued by polluted Nigerian communities in English Courts.



Dutch court orders Shell Nigeria to pay compensation for oil spill

The United Kingdom Supreme Court has ruled that polluted Nigerian communities can take legal actions against oil giant Shell in English Courts.

The verdict by the supreme court, which overturns a court of appeal ruling, is seen as a victory for the communities after a 5-year battle

According to a report from BBC, the judgement by the Supreme Court, UK’s final appeal court for civil cases, ruled that the cases brought by the Bille community and the Ogale people of Ogoniland against Royal Dutch Shell were arguable and could proceed in the English courts.

READ: Shell Nigeria officials accused of masterminding oil spills for their benefit

The Niger Delta communities say decades of pollution have severely impacted their lives, health, and the local environment.

Shell in its defence had argued that it was only a holding company for a firm that should be judged under Nigerian law.

Although it did not dispute that pollution occurred, it said that it could not be held legally liable for its Nigerian subsidiary.

READ: Shell to cut 9,000 jobs globally due to oil price crash as it shifts to clean energy

The law firm, Leigh Day, which represented the communities, argued that Shell owed a common law duty of care to individuals who had suffered serious harm as a result of the systemic health, safety and environmental hazards caused by one of its overseas subsidiaries.

This is coming barely a few weeks after a Dutch court had ruled in a case brought by some Nigerian farmers and backed the Netherland arm of environment group, Friends of the Earth, that Shell was liable to pay the farmers in the Niger Delta compensation for oil spillage in their communities.

READ: Shell warns investors it may write down up to $22 billion due to oil crash

The Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme, Mark Dummet, while welcoming the ruling said the fight had not yet been won.

He added, ‘’This landmark ruling could spell the end of a long chapter of impunity for Shell and for other multinationals who commit human rights abuses overseas.’’

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What you should know


This is the latest in a series of litigations that Shell is faced with over the operations of its Nigerian subsidiary.

A Dutch court had ruled that Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for damages caused by leaks in the Niger Delta and ordered it to pay compensation to Nigerian farmers, although the amount is yet to be announced.

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In 2012, members of the Bodo community filed a lawsuit against Shell in a London High Court, seeking compensation for 2 oil spills. Shell, in 2015 accepted responsibility for the spill and agreed to a £55 million ($76 million) out-of-court settlement and to assist in the cleanup.

Also in 2006, a Nigerian court ordered Shell and its partners to pay $1.5 billion compensation to the Ijaw people of Bayelsa State for environmental degradation in the area.

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Chike Olisah is a graduate of accountancy with over 15 years working experience in the financial service sector. He has worked in research and marketing departments of three top commercial banks. Chike is a senior member of the Nairametrics Editorial Team. You may contact him via his email- [email protected]



  1. Kesiye

    February 12, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    Thank God for victory.

  2. Ahia Oma

    February 12, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you for saring

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