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TENS of thousands of Nigerian farmers and fishermen have been granted permission to challenge oil giant Shell at the supreme court in London.
Villagers from the Niger Delta’s Bille and Ogale communities allege that oil leaks from Shell’s pipelines have polluted their land and water for decades.
They will argue that Shell’s headquarters in London is legally responsible for environmental failures by its subsidiary in Nigeria.
King Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, the ruler of the Ogale community, said: “The English courts are our only hope because we cannot get justice in Nigeria. So let this be a landmark case.”
He vowed: “I will not run away from my responsibility to defend the people of Ogale against one of the largest corporations of the world which treats us with contempt.”
The latest development in this long-running legal battle comes months after the supreme court ruled in favour of Zambian farmers who want to sue mining conglomerate Vedanta in England for allegedly polluting their country’s longest river.
Multinational corporations have long argued they should be sued in the country where the pollution took place and not where their firm is headquartered.
Daniel Leader, a partner at Leigh Day who is representing the Nigerian communities, said: “We hope that the court will apply the principles set out in the Vedanta judgment to this case and allow this case to proceed in London.
“We believe the era of corporate impunity is drawing to a close.
“It is no longer acceptable for companies to make billions out of developing world resources whilst causing devastating damage to the environment and local communities.”
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