Nearly 14,000 Nigerians sue Shell oil company over devastating pollution
Nearly 14,000 residents from two Nigerian communities are seeking damages from Shell, demanding the British oil company to clean up residual oil and compensate for the devastating environmental damage.
In total, 13,652 claims from individuals and institutions from the West African nation were filed last week in UK’s High Court in London.
The combined 13,652 claims are asking Shell to take responsibility for the loss of their livelihoods, saying their ability to farm and fish has largely been destroyed.
Shell, which reported its highest-ever annual profit of nearly $40 billion on Thursday, argues that the communities have no legal standing to enforce clean-up of the oil spills.
The company says the Ogale and Bille communities were barred from seeking compensation for the spills, many of which occurred over five years before the claims were brought.
The claims are expected to come to trial next year. They follow a 2021 ruling by the U.K.’s Supreme Court that there was “a good arguable case” that London-listed Shell was legally responsible for the systemic pollution caused by its Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.
Shell said in 2021 that it plans to leave the Niger Delta and sell its onshore oilfields and assets after 80 years of operations. The company has frequently been challenged in court over its environmental track record in Africa’s most populous nation.
Daniel Leader, partner at Leigh Day, said the case raised important questions about Big Oil’s responsibilities over environmental damage overseas.
“It appears that Shell is seeking to leave the Niger Delta free of any legal obligation to address the environmental devastation caused by oil spills from its infrastructure over many decades,” Leader said.
“At a time when the world is focused on ‘the just transition,’ this raises profound questions about the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for legacy and ongoing environmental pollution.”