Two Royal Dutch Shell Plc units were sued over their involvement in one of the largest oil spills in Nigeria’s history.
Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Co. and Shell International Trading & Shipping Co. allegedly undermined the emergency response to the spill eight years ago and made inadequate efforts to contain it, according to lawyers for the Oil Spill Victims Vanguard.
“That oil, which has never properly been cleaned up, continues to blight the claimants, their environments, livelihoods and communities to this day,” lawyer Graham Dunning said in court documents.
The oil conglomerate acknowledges the overnight spill of 40,000 barrels of oil into the sea from the offshore Bonga oil field in December 2011, but said the case should be tried in Nigeria, not in English courts.
“In a joint effort with regulators and industry experts, we contained and cleaned up the spill, preventing any oil from reaching the shore,” Shell Nigeria Exploration said in an emailed statement. “These events all took place in Nigeria and any case relating to them should be heard in the proper local courts.”
Shell pointed to a similar case in 2017, where the judge ruled that a suit filed over whether the parent company was responsible for extensive environmental damage caused by oil spills in the Niger River delta should be heard in Nigerian courts instead. That case has been granted permission to be heard in the U.K. Supreme Court.
The Vanguard, which represents more than 168,000 people in over 350 communities affected by the spill, is seeking compensation and says the Bonga oil reached the shoreline, waterways and estuaries and continues to have a devastating impact. Shell International Trading is domiciled in England so claimants have a right to sue it in U.K. courts, lawyers for the group said.