Anglo-Dutch multinational oil and gas company, Shell, has challenged two class action suits brought against the company on Tuesday in London by two communities in Nigeria’s Niger Delta accusing Shell of contaminating their water bodies.
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.
The lawyer for Shell and SPDC, Peter Goldsmith, told the High Court of Great Britain that the alleged material damage is 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, allege 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.
Shell also challenged the accusations by pointing out that “Bille and Ogale are both hard hit by oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refineries causing the major pollution in the Niger Delta”.
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.