Shell invokes jurisdiction Act to seek transfer of twin suits to Nigeria
Anglo-Dutch multinational oil and gas company, Shell, has begun the challenge of the two class action suits brought against the company earlier this week in a London Court by two communities in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
The aggrieved communities are praying the court to declare that Shell has polluted their land and should pay compensation and clean up the soil within record time.
But in a swift response, Shell wants the cases heard in Nigeria where their local subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) is based; instead of London and The Hague they are incorporated. Shell wants the matter to be handled in Nigeria, but the litigants had feared the tortuous journey of cases in Nigerian judiciary and possible government intervention to head for London.
The lawyer for Shell and SPDC, Peter Goldsmith, told the high court of Great Britain that the alleged material damage was in Nigeria and that the plaintiffs were trying to “persuade an English court to exercise jurisdiction over the SPDC, a Nigerian company based in Nigeria and still operating exclusively in Nigeria.”
The plaintiffs, who are over 40,000 inhabitants of Ogale and Bille communities, alleged that oil spills from Shell pipelines contaminated their water bodies and polluted their lands thereby causing diseases.
The Chief of Ogale, Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, who was present at the hearing, told AFP in an interview that “Shell is Nigeria, as much as Nigeria is Shell, and you are not going to win against Shell in a Nigerian court.
“People in my community are suffering from strange diseases, some suffer from skin diseases and infertility, while others died suddenly,” he said.
But Shell seems to be complicating the matter by raising issues that was not part of the matter and accuse the communities of driving pipeline vandalism within their communities which were not part of the issues raised in the first instance.
It would be recalled that in January 2015, Shell agreed to pay over $ 80 million to 15,600 fishermen from Bodo after a three-year legal battle. The Nigerian community was hit by two major oil spills in 2008.