Shell wins UK Supreme Court lawsuit over 2011 oil leak off Nigerian coast


The UK Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Nigerian claimants could not sue two Shell businesses for an offshore oil spill in 2011 that they believe had long-term negative impacts on the coastal area where they live.

Shell has been involved in a number of court lawsuits in London against inhabitants of Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, a region beset by pollution, conflict, and corruption resulting from the oil and gas industry.

On December 20, 2011, an estimated 40,000 barrels of crude oil escaped while loading a vessel at Shell’s enormous Bonga oil field, situated 120 kilometers off the delta’s coast.

A total of 27,800 individuals and 457 communities have filed a complaint against Shell, claiming that the oil slick has affected their capacity to produce, fish, drink, preserve mangrove forests, and visit religious places.

The Supreme Court’s five justices agreed, however, that the plaintiffs’ claims were submitted more than six years after the statute of limitations had expired.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the deadline did not apply since the pollution’s effects would last continuously, resulting in a “continuing nuisance,” which is a kind of civil tort.

The Supreme Court rejected the claimants’ case. In his decision, Justice Andrew Burrows said that “there was no continuing nuisance in this case.”

Shell claimed that the Bonga leak had any impact on the shoreline, notwithstanding the claimants’ claims. The court did not rule on the disputed facts since it was only concerned with addressing the legal problem of annoyance.

Despite the fact that just two Nigerians filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, the ruling would affect thousands of new applications.

According to Shell, the Supreme Court’s decision has resulted in the dismissal of all claims connected to the leak in English courts.

“While the 2011 Bonga disaster was deeply unfortunate, it was quickly controlled and cleaned up offshore,” a Shell official said.

For a while, an email addressed to a lawyer representing the Nigerian appellants remained unanswered.

The Supreme Court ruled against Shell in a previous case involving pollution in the Niger Delta. In February 2021, it approved 42,500 farmers and fishermen from the Ogale and Bille districts to sue Shell for leaks, and that case is currently before the High Court.

Following a protracted legal battle in London, Shell agreed in 2015 to pay the Bodo people of the delta 55 million pounds ($70 million) in compensation for two catastrophes.


Related Posts

Illuminating the Promise of Africa.

Receive captivating stories direct to your inbox that reveal the cultures, innovations, and changemakers shaping the continent.