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17 Jun 2020

Leigh Day

Nigeria: Ogale communities in the Niger Delta take their fight against Shell to the UK Supreme Court

‘Supreme Court to hear Nigerian communities’ pollution claims against Shell’ 15 June 2020

More than 40,000 Nigerians from the Ogale and Bille Communities in the Niger Delta will take their legal fight against Shell to the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday, 23 June 2020. The case will be heard via video link and will be live-streamed online. The hearing is listed for one day. The communities argue in their legal case that they have been severely affected by years of oil spills from oil pipelines owned and operated by Shell.  Oil spills and pollution from Shell’s operations and their devastating effect on Niger Delta citizens over many decades have been widely documented, including by the United Nations Environmental Programme in 2011, which recommended an urgent clean-up.  However, no clean-up has taken place.

… The court proceedings to date have focused on the question of whether RDS can be sued in the English courts for damage caused by its Nigerian subsidiary.  The Supreme Court clarified the law in this area in April, 2019 in the case in which Vedanta Resources Plc was held to be arguably liable for the acts of its Zambian subsidiary, the Konkola Copper Mine. Lord Briggs in the Vedanta case held that a parent company can be held to account for the commitments it makes publicly, regarding their subsidiaries and their commitments to the communities they serve.

… The communities’ case was originally heard in the High Court in November, 2016. The High Court ruled in January, 2017 that RDS was not responsible for the harm because it is merely a holding company which did not exercise any control over SPDC. That decision was appealed and, while the judges agreed that the High Court judgment was flawed, the Court of Appeal held by majority in February, 2018 that there was insufficient evidence of “operational control” by RDS to hold it liable.

Part of the following timelines

UK: Court hears appeal in Okpabi Shell case brought by Nigerian plaintiffs for environmental damage

Shell lawsuit (re oil spills & Ogale & Bille communities in Nigeria - Okpabi v Shell)