Rights group slams United Kingdom court ruling on Nigeria oil spill

Kamfanin Shell ba zata biya diyya ga ‘yan Neja Delta ba- Kotu

A British court on Thursday blocked pollution claims against Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell by more than 40,000 Niger Delta residents demanding action over decades of oil spills in the region.

Daniel Leader, a partner at British law firm Leigh Day, which represents the two communities, said: "It is our view that the judgement failed to consider critical evidence which shows the decisive direction and control Royal Dutch Shell exercises over its Nigerian subsidiary".

Members of the Ogale and Bille communities, represented by London law firm Leigh Day, had applied for the case to be heard in Britain, arguing they could not get justice in Nigeria, but the High Court in London said it did not have jurisdiction in the case. "This is a deeply depressing reminder of the impunity enjoyed by powerful corporations, and a blow to other communities in the Niger Delta who are still awaiting justice", the rights group said in a statement.

The court ruled that Shell, as the parent company, does not have legal responsibility for its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), which is jointly operated with the Nigerian government.

"The Ogale and Bille communities have been hit by multiple Shell spills, threatening their health and drinking water".

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One action was brought on behalf of the Ogale community in Ogoniland, consisting of 40,000 people. "We hope and expect that the court of appeal will overturn this decision to show that the United Kingdom justice system will provide remedy to impoverished communities who suffer serious abuse caused by United Kingdom corporations".

"It is also inconsistent with recent judgements of the European Court of Justice and the Dutch Court of Appeal". Cases of this complexity in Nigeria tend to take 20 years or more, a situation the English Court of Appeal recently described as "beyond catastrophic". "Royal Dutch Shell makes billions of dollars of profit each year from Nigerian oil, but our communities which host its infrastructure have been left environmentally devastated". "We will appeal the Judge's decision".

They had expectations for a better result given that Leigh Day won a case in 2009 against Shell over damage caused by oil spills in India.

"It is shocking that Shell is trying to deny it is responsible for its 100 percent-owned subsidiary".

SPDC claims that the main sources of pollution in Ogale and Bille are "crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining".

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