The Supreme Court of Nigeria has upheld an appeal by Shell Plc’s local unit against a ruling related to a pollution case that has prevented the oil major from selling billions of dollars of assets in the country, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. was issued a court order in 2022 preventing it from divesting the assets pending the outcome of the case. Its parent company subsequently paused the disposal of its onshore oil operations.
Full details of the judgment, which was issued verbally on Friday, will be set out in writing in seven days, the people said, asking not to be named before the ruling was published.
SPDC holds 30% of a joint venture in Nigeria, with the state oil company among other shareholders.
“We note the Supreme Court’s judgment on SPDC’s appeal,” a spokesperson for the unit said in response to questions. SPDC is “currently assessing its implications.”
Mohammed Ndarani Mohammed, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said he would read the ruling before deciding whether to comment.
Shell has pumped oil in Nigeria for more than half a century. But almost three years ago, then-Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden signaled its intention to exit onshore oil positions as a result of persistent sabotage and theft, while staying committed to offshore gas assets.
Friday’s result gives SPDC only some respite, as the company faces litigation in other courts in Nigeria and the UK.
The same lawyers are representing about 1,200 plaintiffs in Nigeria’s southwestern city of Akure, who claim they were affected by an oil spill in 2011. In Britain, a court has ruled that a group of Nigerian fishermen can bring claims against Shell Plc in another long-running legal case.