Shell has won its legal battle over oil spills in the Niger Delta

Courtney Goldsmith
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Shell won in having the case dismissed from English courts (Source: Getty)

Royal Dutch Shell today won a High Court decision in which the English court said it does not have jurisdiction to rule on claims against the company's Nigerian subsidiary.

UK solicitors Leigh Day brought oil spill claims against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) on behalf of the Ogale and Bille communities in the Niger Delta in 2015, while also filing claims against Royal Dutch Shell as an “anchor defendant” to bring the claims in England

Igo Weli, general manager for external relations at SPDC, said the court made the right decision in ruling the claims should be dealt with by the Nigerian courts. SPDC operates a joint venture with the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

"The judge correctly decided that the holding company, Royal Dutch Shell, had no legal responsibility for harm to the communities in the Niger Delta caused by criminal interference in Nigeria with the operations of a joint venture in which the Nigerian government owns a majority interest," Weli said.

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Bille and Ogale are areas heavily impacted by crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining, which remain the main sources of pollution across the Niger Delta.

Before the decision was announced, Amnesty International said the case could set a precedent for holding other UK-based global firms to account for abuses committed overseas, calling it a “green light for UK multinationals to profit from human rights abuses and environmental destruction”.

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Weli said SPDC continues to play an active role in searching for solutions to the issues of pipeline sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining, which he said the claims against Shell in England would not address.

“Nigeria is a core part of the Shell Group’s upstream business. We see considerable potential for growth in Nigeria and are determined to help Nigeria unlock its energy potential over the long term."

Joe Westby, campaigner on business and human rights at Amnesty International said he hopes and expects the court of appeal will overturn the decision "to show that the UK justice system will provide remedy to impoverished communities who suffer serious abuse caused by UK corporations."

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