Shell Fights Back Over Oil Spill During Biafra/Nigeria Civil War

Yemisi Izuora

Oil giant Shell, on Monday, February 15, initiated international arbitration against the federal government over a dispute regarding an oil spill that took place five decades ago; according to a filing with the World Bank’s dispute settlement body.

The issue relates to an oil spill in the Ejama-Ebubu community that took place during the 1967-70 Biafran war.

In November 2020, the Supreme Court denied Shell’s request to appeal the award. Shell has said it never got a chance to defend itself against the substance of the claims.

“This is not a decision we take lightly but, given the history of this particular case; we are seeking protection of our legal rights from an international tribunal,” Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) revealed in its statement.

Shell made the filing with the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on February 10. It declined to say what the company was seeking via arbitration, and the ICSID posting included no details.

Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, is yet to issue an official statement regarding the case.

Shell has faced a string of court losses in the past several months over oil spills.

In November, in the case at hand, the Supreme Court rejected its bid to set aside a 2010 award of N17 billion with accruing interest; which the community says is now worth more than N180 billion.

Last week a group of fishermen and farmers won the right to sue the company in the United Kingdom over Nigerian oil spills.

A Dutch appeals court held it responsible for multiple oil pipeline leaks in the Niger Delta; and ordered it to pay unspecified damages to farmers.

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