The United Kingdom Supreme Court has ruled that polluted Nigerian communities can sue Royal Dutch Shell, a British-Dutch oil company in English courts for pollution.
The decisions overturns a previous Appeal Court ruling and represents a victory after a five-year legal battle instituted by Ogale and Bille communities in Rivers state.
While the communities with 42,500 farmers and fishermen stressed that they are suffering after the oil company polluted their environment including land, swamps, groundwater and waterways, Shell in its defence argued that it was only a holding company for a firm that should be judged under Nigerian law.
The Royal Dutch Shell which also did not dispute that pollution had been caused, argued that it could not be held legally responsible for its Nigerian subsidiary and that the pollution was the result of “crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining”.
However the Supreme Court ruled that the cases brought by the Bille community and the Ogale people of Ogoniland who maintained that “there is no hope of justice in Nigerian courts”, were arguable and could proceed in the English courts.
The court judgement is coming barely two weeks after a Dutch Court ruled that the oil giant is liable to pay four farmers in the Niger Delta compensation over oil pollution in their communities.