The coast is now clear for Nigerians to sue Shell in English Courts for damage to communities caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

This follows a judgement of United Kingdom’s Supreme Court delivered yesterday, Friday February 12, which gave communities in Nigeria to bring their claims for compensation for any oil spills and clean-up in UK courts.

The Supreme Court gave the ruling in case instituted by Ogale community in Eleme Local Government Area and Bille community in Degama Local Government Areas of Rivers State.

The communities in their application, contended that Shell should be held liable for the oil spills under the supervision of its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC.

The UK Supreme Court overturned a split decision of the Court of Appeal and held that the two cases brought by the Ogale and Bille communities are arguable and can proceed in the English courts.

The Supreme Court ruling adds another precedent for oil companies who can be sued in their domicile for oil spills and other harm to communities in other countries.

Brave Views recalls that only last month, the Hague Court of Appeal in Netherlands ordered Shell to compensate Nigerian farmers for two oil spills in the country 13 years ago.

It was the first lawsuit in which a company has been held liable in the Netherlands for its actions abroad.

Shell has not argued that the oil spills did not happen but has always said that the spills happened in communities with rampant oil theft and infrastructure sabotage.

“Regardless of the cause of a spill, SPDC cleans up and remediates. It also works hard to prevent these sabotage spills, by using technology, increasing surveillance and by promoting alternative livelihoods for those who might damage pipes and equipment. Unfortunately, such criminal acts remain the main sources of pollution across the Niger Delta today,” a spokesperson for Shell said, as carried by Sky News.

“Persistent issues with theft and sabotage in the Niger Delta could prompt Shell to take a hard look at its operations onshore Nigeria, the supermajor’s chief executive Ben van Beurden said last week.

“Daniel Leader, a partner with law firm Leigh Day representing the Nigerian communities, said, commenting on Friday’s ruling:

“This Supreme Court judgment gives real hope to the people of Ogale and Bille who have been asking Shell to clean up their oil for years. We hope that now, finally, Shell will act. But it also represents a watershed moment in the accountability of multinational companies.”

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