The United Kingdom (UK) Supreme Court has ruled that polluted Nigerian communities can sue oil giant, Shell, in English courts.
According to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Africa, this decision overturns a previous Appeal Court ruling and represents a victory after a five-year legal battle.
The Niger Delta communities had alleged that decades of pollution have severely impacted their lives, health and local environment.
Shell, in its defence, had argued that it was only a holding company for a firm that should be judged under Nigerian law.
But the UK Supreme Court ruled that the cases brought by the Bille community and Ogale people of Ogoniland against Royal Dutch Shell were arguable and could proceed in the English courts.
Royal Dutch Shell did not dispute that pollution had been caused, but argued that it could not be held legally responsible for its Nigerian subsidiary and that the pollution was the result of “crude oil theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining.”
Last month, a Dutch appeals court ruled that the Nigerian subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell was responsible for oil pipeline leaks in the Niger Delta and ordered it to pay unspecified damages to farmers.
The decision went a step further than a 2013 ruling by a lower court, which ruled that Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for multiple cases of oil pollution.