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More than 40,000 residents in the Niger River Delta have been demanding action against Shell over decades of oil spills in the region.

Shell Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) claims the main sources of pollution in Nigeria

A Nigerian tribe received with “great disappointment” the decision taken by a British court on Thursday to block pollution claims against Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell.

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Members of the Ogale and Bille communities, represented by London law firm Leigh Day, had applied for the case to be heard in Britain, arguing they could not get justice in Nigeria, but the High Court in London said it did not have jurisdiction in the case.

“Our community is disappointed but not discouraged by this judgement,” King Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, ruler of the Ogale Community, said in a statement.

More than 40,000 Niger River Delta residents, who depend on fishing and farming for their livelihoods, have been demanding action against Shell over decades of oil spills in the region.

They had expectations for a better result given that Leigh Day won a case in 2009 against Shell over damage caused by oil spills in India. In that case, the company had to pay US$83.5 million in compensation to the Bodo people, a native community in northern India.

“This decision has to be appealed, not just for Ogale but for many other people in the Niger Delta who will be shut out if this decision is allowed to stand. Shell is simply being asked to clean up its oil and to compensate the communities it has devastated,” added the tribal leader.

The multinational oil giant argues that the case should be heard in Nigeria, pointing out it involves its subsidiary in that country.

The firm’s lawyer Peter Goldsmith told judge Peter Fraser during a hearing in November that the cases concerned “fundamentally Nigerian issues,” and should not be heard in London.

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