Nigerians lose UK Supreme Court’s case over Shell oil spill
The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that it was too late for a group of Nigerian claimants to sue two Shell subsidiaries over a 2011 spill off the coast of Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
The legal case, launched by residents of Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta, is one of a series of legal battles Shell has been fighting in London courts. On 20 December 2011, an estimated 40,000 barrels of crude oil leaked when a tanker was loaded at Shell’s Bonga oilfield, 120 km off the West African country’s coast. Shell disputed the allegations and said the Bonga spill was dispersed offshore and did not impact the shoreline. On Wednesday (10 May), the Supreme Court upheld rulings by two lower courts that ruled the plaintiffs had brought their case after the six-year legal expiry date.
The legal case against Shell was mounted by a group of 27,800 people and 457 communities living in the delta who have claimed the leftover oil slick polluted their lands and waterways and damaged farming, fishing, drinking water, mangrove forests and religious shrines. But a panel of five Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected the claimants’ argument that the ongoing consequences of the pollution represented a “continuing nuisance”. “The Supreme Court rejects the claimants’ submission. There was no continuing nuisance in this case,” Justice Andrew Burrows said as he delivered the ruling. “The leak was a one-off event or an isolated escape. The oil pipe was no longer leaking after six hours,” he said.