News just in: UK’s High Court has blocked a court case by 42,000 people in the Niger Delta seeking justice for Shell’s oil spills poisoning their land.
The ruling could create a dangerous precedent, showing that communities subjected to abuses by UK corporations cannot seek compensation through the legal system here. Shell has gone to great lengths to avoid this case ever coming to court. In 2015, it paid out £55m in[1] settlement to the Bodo community in the Niger Delta to avoid a similar UK High Court case.
King Okpabi, paramount ruler of the Ogale community in the Niger delta said today that the communities will appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal.
Royal Dutch Shell makes billions of dollars of profit each year from Nigerian oil but our communities which host its’ infrastructure have been left environmentally devastated. Shell underestimate us if they think this judgment will affect our resolve. There is no hope of justice in the Nigerian courts. We still very much believe in the British justice system and so we are going to appeal this decision.
[2]

Ogoni protesters demand that Shell cleans up its oil pollution

Shell’s oil drilling is responsible for a toxic legacy in the Niger Delta. The UN’s Environment Programme UNEP researched the destruction and published a report in 2011, concluding that Shell had not taken sufficient action to clean up and set out initial steps to rectify the damage.

Years later, Shell’s spills are still evident in Ogoniland.[3] We witnessed creeks and soil reeking of oil, in areas that Shell claims to have remediated. Communities report oil crusts on their land, rotten crops and poisoned fish. Emergency water supplies had not been delivered, forcing local residents to drink oil-polluted water.

In response, Ogoni people issued an ultimatum to Shell and the Nigerian government, and mobilised thousands to shut down oil operations in a series of direct actions[4]. Platform, alongside other international and Nigerian groups, has been supporting this push for clean-up. Together we have had some success. Shell has finally agreed to pay [5]a contribution towards the Ogoni clean-up and last year the Nigerian Government put the legislative frameworks in place[6] for the process to begin and this year a project coordinator was appointed.

But Niger Delta communities are yet to see reparations, and the High Court’s ruling appears to be another dead end on the long road to justice.

In the words of Ken Henshaw from Social Action,[7]
We are calling for [the cleanup] to be transparent; how will that money promised so far be utilised? We demand to be informed about how the clean up is going to happen over the next 30 years. We must be central to this process as we […] will be here feeling the impacts for years to come.

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Endnotes:
  1. £55m in: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/07/shell-announces-55m-payout-for-nigeria-oil-spills
  2. [Image]: https://platformlondon-org.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MOSOP-UNEP-protest.jpg
  3. Years later, Shell’s spills are still evident in Ogoniland.: https://platformlondon.org/p-publications/polluted-promises-how-shell-failed-to-clean-up-ogoniland/
  4. shut down oil operations in a series of direct actions: https://platformlondon.org/2013/12/11/ogoni-protests-escalate-in-nigeria-as-shell-fails-to-implement-unep-report/
  5. Shell has finally agreed to pay : https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/07/nigerian-government-finally-sets-up-fund-to-clean-up-ogoniland-oil-spills
  6. Nigerian Government put the legislative frameworks in place: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=27076&ArticleID=36199
  7. Social Action,: http://saction.org/home/