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 overturn a previous Appeal Court ruling and represent a victory after a five-year legal battle instituted by Ogale and Bille communities in Rivers State.
The court’s judgment is coming barely two weeks after a Dutch Appeal Court ruled that the oil giant is liable to pay compensation to four Niger Delta farmers over oil pollution in their communities.
While the communities with 42,500 farmers and fishermen stressed that they are suffering after the oil company polluted their environment: 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 the cause of the pollution, 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.”
Bille and Ogale in Ogoniland maintained that “there is no hope of justice in Nigerian courts,”
However, the Supreme Court ruled that the cases brought by them were arguable and could proceed in the English courts.