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5 Apr, 2023 14:03

Shell accused of trying to delay Nigerian oil spill lawsuit

The British company is attempting to shield itself from scrutiny, lawyers have claimed
Shell accused of trying to delay Nigerian oil spill lawsuit

Shell Plc has been accused of plotting to delay an oil spill pollution lawsuit filed against it by thousands of Nigerians, their legal representatives argued on Tuesday. The British multinational oil and gas company is under fire from over 13,000 people who have sued it and a local subsidiary, SPDC, for alleged pollution in the Niger Delta.

In February, over 11,000 individuals and 17 institutions in the Niger Delta area of Ogale sued Shell over oil spill claims, adding to the existing suit filed in 2015 by over 2,000 residents of Bille.

The combined cases are seeking damages from Shell in the High Court in London, and demanding the energy giant clean up residual oil and compensate for devastating environmental damage.

The claimants, who are represented by lawyers from the UK law firm Leigh Day, say that they have lost their livelihoods because their ability to farm and fish has been largely destroyed. The UK's Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that Shell owed the claimants “duty of care.”

Shell has denied any wrongdoing and says that the majority of the oil spills were caused by illegal third-party interference, such as pipeline sabotage and oil theft.

The company asked the High Court on Tuesday to set a trial date for early 2024 to determine whether parts of the case were filed too late and whether SPDC is liable for oil spills caused by third-party interference. It also proposes two more trials to address allegations against its subsidiary as well as Shell's alleged liability as its parent company.

Lawyers for the complainants have argued in London's High Court that the corporation was attempting to evade scrutiny, according to Reuters.

In court filings, the petitioners’ lawyer, Richard Hermer, argued that Shell's proposal is nothing more than a ploy to “shield from scrutiny.” He also alleged that if Shell's application is granted, the final decision on the lawsuits could be delayed until 2029, which his clients cannot afford.

Shell's lawyer, James Goldsmith, in response to Hermer's claims, stated that “the claimants are responsible for the ongoing delays” due to their failure to provide sufficient details about their cases. “This is not an attempt to delay matters or out-resource the claimants,” he said.