Shell appeals against latest $1.5 billion Nigerian fine ruling

Almost six years after a Nigerian court first slapped a $1.5 billion fine on oil giant Shell for alleged environmental abuses the company is sticking to its guns, arguing there is no legal grounds for making it pay.

Last week Nigeria’s Federal High Court upheld the ruling that the Anglo-Dutch oil company should pay the money as compensation to the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta, where most of the corporations operations in the country are based.

The fine was first issued in 2000 but Shell has consistently argued there is no basis in law that gives the Nigerian courts the power to issue such a fine and the majority of damage to the region has been caused by local militants either vandalising infrastructure or making botched attempts at stealing oil from pipelines.

The Ijaw claim pollution to farmland and water supplies as well as reduce air quality from gas flaring is the direct responsibility of the oil companies that operate in the delta.

These communities say they have been affected by exposure to a cocktail of toxic substances such as benzene and particulates causing severe health risks and property damage, in violation of their human rights.

The burning off of gas was officially banned in Nigeria in 1984, but oil companies have been repeatedly granted ministerial permission to continue.

Since refusing to pay the huge fine Shell’s continuing presence in Nigeria has been plagued by kidnappings, militant attacks and sabotage leading to a significant drop in production.

But despite the problems in Nigeria the company announced record profits last year, due in part to high oil prices.

Shell now argues the High Court was not in a position to make a ruling on the case as the company had already lodged an appeal with a higher legal authority.

by Sam Bond

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