The Court of appeal in the United Kingdom has dismissed a claim for compensation against Royal Dutch Shell by two Nigerian communities, affected by oil spill.
The communities in Rivers State, Ogale and Bille began two separate legal claims against both Royal Dutch Shell plc (RDS) and its 100% owned Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in 2016.
They were inspired by a similar case filed by the Bodo community. The law firm Leigh Day won a landmark agreement from Shell to pay $83.5 million in compensation to the Bodo community for damage caused by oil spills in 2008 and 2009.
But in January last year, a lower court ruled that the Royal Dutch Shell could not be held accountable for the sins of a Nigerian subsidiary.
The appeal court affirmed the decision today. In a split decision, a panel of three judges ruled that the claim could not proceed.
In a reaction to the decision of the court Joe Westby, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Business and Human Rights, said:
“With this ruling the court has struck a blow not only to the Ogale and Bille communities, who live everyday with the devastating consequences of Shell oil spills, but with victims of corporate human rights abuses all over the world. This ruling sets a dangerous precedent and will make it more difficult to hold UK companies to account.
“The idea that powerful multinationals are not responsible for the conduct of their subsidiaries overseas has allowed Shell to evade accountability for a raft of shocking human rights abuses spanning decades. This is a textbook example of the almost insurmountable obstacles to justice faced by people who take on powerful multinationals.
“Internal Shell documents show that the company’s headquarters have known full well for decades about the massive oil pollution caused by their operations in Nigeria, and have chosen not to stop it. If Shell cannot be held to account for such well-documented abuses, what hope is there of bringing other companies to justice?
“The communities will now be taking their fight for justice to the Supreme Court – this could be their last chance to see their environment restored.”