British supreme court hears Nigeria case in Shell oil spill claim

The appeal just announced by Nigerian farmers and fishermen over ‘Shell’ multinational re-opens the prospect for British companies to be held liable at home for their subsidiaries’ actions abroad.

Specifically, Britain’s supreme court will next Tuesday hear Nigerian farmers and fishermen appealing to pursue the claims against oil major Shell over significant spills in the Niger Delta.

This news comes after a setback in 2018 when a London court ruled that the claim could not be pursued in England.

Image credit Independent Newspaper

The Ogale and Bille communities allege that Shell’s oil operations have highly polluted their land and waters. They are now seeking justice through British courts because cases heard in Nigeria can take up to decades to resolve, said Leigh Day, the legal firm representing the farmers and fishermen.


The main question for the courts is whether they have or don’t have jurisdiction over claims against Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company, which is jointly operated with the Nigerian government.

Image credit Sundiata Post

Shell’s subsidiary has declared: “claims by Nigerian communities against a Nigerian company about events in Nigeria should be heard in Nigeria and not the UK”.


The Nigerian unit declared that the spills are chiefly due to oil theft, sabotage and illegal refining. The communities keep emphasizing the fact that they cannot seek redress locally.

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