The United Kingdom Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favour of British multinational oil and gas company, Shell, over a 2011 offshore oil spill.
The apex court ruled that it was too late for Nigerian claimants to sue Shell subsidiaries over a 2011 offshore oil spill.
The case was one of a series of legal battles Shell has been fighting in London courts against residents of Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta, a region blighted by pollution, conflict and corruption related to the oil and gas industry, Reuters report.
In December 2011, there were allegations that an estimated 40,000 barrels of crude oil leaked when a tanker was loaded at Shell’s Bonga oilfield, 120km off the coast of Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
Shell disputed the allegations and said the Bonga spill was dispersed offshore and did not have adverse effects on the shoreline, according to Reuters.
A group of 27,800 individuals and 457 communities have made several attempts to drag Shell to court, arguing that the resulting oil slick polluted their lands and waterways, destroying farming, fishing, drinking water, mangrove forests and religious shrines.
But a panel of five Supreme Court justices unanimously upheld rulings by two lower courts that found they had brought their case after the expiry of a six-year legal deadline for taking action.
The claimants’ lawyers had argued that the ongoing consequences of the pollution represented a “continuing nuisance”, a type of civil tort, which would have meant the deadline did not apply.
“The Supreme Court rejects the claimants’ submission. There was no continuing nuisance in this case,” Justice Andrew Burrows said during the ruling.
While it was two Nigerians that were appellants in the Supreme Court case, the verdict would be applicable to the thousands of other claimants, the report added.
Shell said the Supreme Court ruling had brought to an end all legal claims in English courts related to the spill.
“While the 2011 Bonga spill was highly regrettable, it was swiftly contained and cleaned up offshore,” a Shell spokesperson said.
A lawyer for the Nigerian appellants did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.