Shell has paused its plans to divest its onshore oil assets in Nigeria in compliance with a ruling of the country’s Supreme Court.

The top court in Nigeria asked the oil major to wait for the result of an appeal pertaining to the 2019 oil spill.

Earlier this month, the Nigerian Supreme Court upheld the decision of a lower court that prevented Shell from divesting the assets until the settlement of a dispute over the lower court’s ruling of awarding $1.95bn compensation to a Niger Delta community over the oil spill.

A total of 82 communities in Rivers state would get the compensation as per the lower court ruling for an oil spill that was allegedly caused by Shell. The oil spill is said to have damaged the communities’ waterways and farms.

Shell has been denying that it is responsible for causing the spill.

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria managing director and Shell Companies in Nigeria chairman Osagie Okunbor said: “The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. (SPDC) complies with the law, including any court orders, and respects the judiciary and its role in upholding the rule of law.

“Recent media reporting regarding the 16 June Supreme Court proceedings does not accurately reflect SPDC’s response to the order. SPDC will continue to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to maintain the status quo.

“We have a strong belief in the merits of our case, which we are vigorously defending.”

SPDC is focused on operating in the Niger Delta and the connecting shallow offshore areas where it is engaged in an acreage of nearly 31,000km2. It operates a joint venture with a stake of 30% where it is partnered by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Total Exploration and Production Nigeria, and Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).

The JV had been hit with several incidents of oil spills that are said to be mostly because of theft.