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Shell Says Wins U.K. Court Ruling in Nigerian Oil Spills Case

A Royal Dutch Shell Plc subsidiary said it won a preliminary ruling in a U.K. court against thousands of Nigerians who say their land, rivers and wetlands were spoiled by two oil spills in the Niger River delta in 2008.

Judge Robert Akenhead ruled today that a Nigerian law, the Oil Pipelines Act, is adequate for compensating for spills, limiting the scope of the U.K. litigation to an assessment of actual damages caused, the company said in a statement today.

The lawsuit against Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was filed by residents of the coastal Bodo community in 2012 after two spills on the Bomu-Bonny Pipeline in 2008, Shell said.

“From the outset, we’ve accepted responsibility for the two deeply regrettable operational spills in Bodo,” Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd., said in the statement. “We want to compensate fairly and quickly those who have been genuinely affected and to clean up all areas where oil has been spilled from our facilities.”

Lawyers representing the 15,000 Nigerians also claimed a victory from the ruling today, saying that Shell could be found liable at trial for theft from its pipelines if it failed to take “reasonable steps to protect its infrastructure,” the law firm Leigh Day & Co. said in an e-mailed statement.

There is evidence 1,000 hectares of mangroves have been destroyed by the spills, the law firm said.

“We hope the community will now direct their U.K. legal representatives to stop wasting even more time pursuing enormously exaggerated claims and consider sensible and fair compensation offers,” Sunmonu said.

A trial is scheduled for May 2015.

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