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UK High Court rules Shell cannot be sued in London for Nigeria oil spills

26 January 2017

Royal Dutch Shell cannot be sued in London over oil spills in Nigeria, the High Court ruled on January 26. Villagers from the Bille and Ogale communities in the oil-producing Niger Delta in southern Nigeria had said they were affected by pollution and had sought to take action against Shell in London rather than its subsidiary in Nigeria.

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Stock image

If the High Court had ruled in favour of the claimants, others could have been encouraged to pursue legal action against British-based multinationals through the British courts, legal experts have said.

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 judge, Justice Fraser, said: "There is simply no connection whatsoever between this jurisdiction and the claims brought by the claimants, who are Nigerian citizens, for breaches of statutory duty and/or in common law for acts and omissions in Nigeria, by a Nigerian company."

The court also said the claimants should be able to use Nigerian courts, which are now delivering quicker verdicts.

The villagers argued that Nigerian courts were unfit to hear their case, but Shell said the matter was a uniquely Nigerian issue and should be heard there.

An appeal will be lodged against the ruling, lawyers representing the villagers said.


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