A UK court has ruled that Nigeria’s $1 billion suit against Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, oil giants, cannot go on because it does not have jurisdiction over the case.
Christopher Butcher, the judge, gave the ruling at a virtual hearing on Friday, setting back the long standing trial on the Malabu oil deal of 2011.
In his written decision, the judge said the English case has both the same essential facts and parties as a parallel proceeding in Italy also brought by the Nigerian government over the Malabu deal.
Virtual hearings in the case took place last month, during which the companies argued to halt the $1 billion English suit as duplicating the ongoing criminal trial and parallel civil claim being brought by Nigeria in Italy over the controversial.
The defendants – Eni, Shell and others — asked for the court to decline jurisdiction under article 29 of the recast Brussels Regulation, as the Italian case against the companies is still ongoing.
Nigeria wanted the April court date postponed until January 2021, when a connected criminal case in Milan is expected to have concluded.
The oil companies and former and current executives face corruption charges linked to the Malabu scandal, a 2011 deal involving a Nigerian oil block known as OPL 245.
Officials affected in the scandal have denied wrongdoing.
Meanwhile Barnaby Pace, a journalist and oil campaigner who monitored the sitting, said Nigeria was also denied permission to appeal against the judgment.
“Today in the English High Court oil giants @Shell and @eni Eni are arguing that a billion dollar lawsuit brought by Nigeria should not go ahead while there is also a claim for damages as part of the ongoing Milan criminal trial.
The hearing’s happening online so its an old photo outside the Royal Courts of Justice!
The listing says the hearing will be for “Consequentials /Further Arguments” so there will likely also be arguments over costs as well as the handing down of a judgement.
To read what’s happened up to now in the case check out the three days of live tweeting I did a few weeks ago covering the arguments that lead up the ruling today.”
The request was denied after Eni and Shell contested Nigeria’s arguments to appeal against the ruling — though Nigeria can still seek further permission to appeal.