Shell Will Pay Over $84 Million to Nigerians Whose Community it Destroyed

Good news! Royal Dutch Shell has finally agreed to an $84 million settlement with residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta for two oil spills that occurred six years ago.

Lawyers for 15,600 Nigerian fishermen say their clients will receive $3,300 each for losses caused by the spills. The remaining $30 million will be left for the community, which law firm Leigh Day says was “devastated by the two massive oil spills in 2008 and 2009.”

Interestingly, the settlement avoids Shell having to defend a potentially embarrassing London high court case, which had been scheduled to start shortly.

These were among the biggest spills in decades of oil exploration in Nigeria, and thousands of hectares of mangrove were affected in the southern Ogoniland region.

Amnesty International and the Center for Environment, Human Rights, and Development (CEHRD) have worked on the Bodo spills case since 2008, supporting the community to secure compensation and clean up.

In 2011, the people of Bodo, represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, began court proceedings in the UK against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.

The reality is that hundreds of oil spills from Shell’s pipelines occur every year; the company repeatedly blames illegal activity in the Niger Delta for most oil pollution, but its claims have been discredited according to research by Amnesty International and CEHRD.

Shell’s shady and deadly practices date back many years, and have often involved dealings with the Nigerian government.

Ken Saro-Wiwa Murdered

A prime example of this is the story of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a leading environmentalist and author in Nigeria, who in the 1990s was one of the Nigerian government’s most articulate and determined critics.

Saro-Wiwa’s organization, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, grew to become the largest political organization in the 350-square-mile homeland of the Ogoni.

The group began to demonstrate for an end to oil spillages, gas flarings and the destruction of the mangroves to make way for Shell pipelines. They also demanded a share of the revenues from the oil pumped from their land.

In response, Saro-Wiwa was arrested in 1994 and put on trial before a special military court, along with other Ogoni advocates, on charges that were clearly trumped up. Despite international pressure, Shell initially refused to intervene, saying at the time, ”the company does not get involved in politics.”

Saro-Wiwa was executed, along with eight other members of the Ogoni tribe, and his body was burned with acid and thrown into an unmarked grave.

Is This Really a Victory?

That was 20 years ago, but have things really changed?

While this settlement is thought to be the largest payout to any African community following environmental damage and the first time that compensation for an oil spill has been paid directly to affected individuals rather than to local chiefs, is it really that much of a victory?

“While the pay-out is a long awaited victory for the thousands of people who lost their livelihoods in Bodo, it shouldn’t have taken six years to get anything close to fair compensation,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“In effect, Shell knew that Bodo was an accident waiting to happen. It took no effective action to stop it, then it made false claims about the amount of oil that had been spilt. If Shell had not been forced to disclose this information as part of the UK legal action, the people of Bodo would have been completely swindled.”

$84 million might seem like a lot of money, but is in fact a fraction of one day’s profits for Royal Dutch Shell.

Surely the settlement should have been in the billions, rather than the millions? It seems that for Shell, and the Nigerian government, it’s still all about profits and if they need to drive people off their land, then so be it.

What’s needed is a committment to protect the people of the Niger Delta and their land, and more regulations to enforce that protection, but we’re not seeing that.

We can also compare this settlement to the amounts of money (even though they are far too small) that BP is having to pay out in the U.S. in response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Surely if the situation in the Niger Delta were happening in a Western industrialized nation, Shell would have to pay much more.

This settlement is better than nothing, but it is nowhere near a complete victory.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

98 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Angela K.
Angela K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Manuela C.
Manuela C4 years ago

At least they're paying something!

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Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush4 years ago

Shell can give out $84,000,000, without batting an eyelash.

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Janet B.
Janet B4 years ago

Thanks

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