Shell abandons efforts for oil spill trial to be heard in Nigeria

Royal Dutch Shell Plc has dropped its latest attempt to argue that a major lawsuit brought by thousands of Nigerians over an oil spill in the West African country should be heard in Nigeria rather than the UK .

Shell’s legal team refused to return to the High Court of England with arguments that the five-year-old case would be best heard in Nigeria, according to the parties involved, conceding that the Nigerian subsidiary will now be joined to the claims made in England against the parent company.

The UK Supreme Court said in a landmark decision in February that Shell’s parent company could be sued in English courts over the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary. The court, however, left the door open for Shell to argue that it was more appropriate to leave any action against the local unit to the Nigerian courts. By including the subsidiary in the UK proceedings, more documents about Shell’s work in Nigeria are likely to become public.

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“This is an important victory” for affected communities because it means they can finally take their case to court, Daniel Leader, a lawyer representing the claimants, said in a statement. However, he added, “Shell’s oil contamination remains in their drinking water, land and waterways, and no cleanup has yet taken place.”

Shell declined to comment. The company said in February that it repairs any environmental damage, regardless of the cause.

The decision follows a pair of recent legal defeats for Shell. In January, a Dutch court ordered the company to pay compensation to villagers in the Niger Delta for an oil spill that occurred decades ago. In a separate trial in The Hague in May, Shell lost a key case in which it was told to cut emissions by 45% across all its international operations by 2030.

About 40,000 members of the Nigerian Ogale and Bille communities claim that Royal Dutch Shell and SPDC, its local subsidiary, are jointly responsible for the oil contamination they have suffered in the Niger Delta since the 1980s. importance under the leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian government in 1995.

Shell has a checkered history in the West African country, where a series of oil spills, which it attributes in part to sabotage, caused it to reassess its future there. In May, chief executive Ben van Beurden told shareholders that “the balance of risks and rewards associated with our onshore portfolio is no longer compatible with our strategic ambitions”.

The company set out a plan earlier this year to become “net zero” in terms of carbon emissions by 2050.

Photograph: A Shell logo sits on a totem sign at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc petrol station in Rayleigh, UK, Wednesday September 30, 2020. Photo credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg.

Copyright 2022 Bloomberg.

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