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17 Apr 2023

Chinedu Okafor, The Business Insider (Africa)

Nigeria: Lawyers accuse Shell of seeking to hide from scrutiny over pollution in Niger Delta

‘Nigerians allege that Shell is dragging the oil spill lawsuit laid against them’ 5 April 2023

Hundreds of Bille and Ogale residents are suing Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC for oil leaks. Shell firmly rejects any culpability and claims that some complaints were filed too late. According to the report, most leaks were caused by illicit third-party activity, such as pipeline sabotage and oil theft. The corporation is requesting that the High Court schedule an initial hearing in early 2024 to determine if sections of the lawsuit were brought too late and whether SPDC is accountable for oil leaks caused by third-party involvement. Shell claims that two further trials might follow to evaluate the charges against its subsidiary and Shell's purported culpability as its parent corporation.

Shell's plan has been presented as a mechanism to hide (Shell) from examination, according to Richard Hermer, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in court documents. The action, which began in 2015 in parts, has already been heard by the UK Supreme Court, which found in 2021 that there was an arguable case that Shell owed the claimants a duty of care. Allowing Shell's proposal, according to Hermer, may delay a final ruling on the claims until 2029.

"The reality is that the defendants can readily afford for their claimants to run for seven more years but the claimants cannot," he said. Shell's lawyer, James Goldsmith, told the court that "the claimants are accountable for the continuous delays" since they did not disclose enough material about their claims. "This is not an attempt to delay matters or out-resource the claimants," he added.