Nigerian Supreme Court Upholds Oil Spill Award Against Shell

Nigeria’s Supreme Court dismissed an application by Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s local unit to review a $467-million award for damages caused by an oil spill half a century ago.

Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour led a five-member panel of the court Friday that unanimously dismissed Shell’s bid for lacking merit. The court upheld a 2010 ruling against the company for spills in Ejama-Ebubu community in Ogoni, Rivers state, in the legal tussle that has lasted more than three decades.

The spill was caused by third parties during Nigeria’s civil war in the late 1960s, resulting in significant damage to its pipelines in the region, Shell said in a statement on Friday. While it has since cleaned the area and remediated the affected sites, it doesn’t accept responsibility for the spills, the oil firm said.

“It is regrettable that the legal process in this case has been focused for so long on procedural issues and not the merits of the case,” a company statement read. “It is our position that any attempt to enforce payment should not be permitted” due to other ongoing court proceedings.

Shell in December won a U.K. ruling preventing London courts from enforcing the award, saying the proceedings that led to the award was unfair because it was denied an opportunity to present a defense.

Shell, the largest oil producer in Nigeria, have been beset by lawsuits involving the West African nation, many of them in courts in the Hague and the U.K., for its part in spills in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger River delta region. While the company in 2015 agreed to pay $83 million in compensation to thousands of residents of the Bodo community for two “highly regrettable” spills in 2008, it disputes the Ejama-Ebubu claim.

“We have always maintained that we are ready to defend this case based on the available facts,” Shell said.

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