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Date: 2024-03-03 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00009356

Country ... Nigeria
Companies ... Shell

HUMANITARIAN CRISES .. Shell to pay $83.5m for Nigeria oil spill


Peter Burgess

HUMANITARIAN CRISES .. Shell to pay $83.5m for Nigeria oil spill

Fishing community to get compensation for 2008 spills that destroyed thousands of acres of mangroves in southern delta. The out-of-court settlement averted a full trial at the High Court in London [File: AP] The out-of-court settlement averted a full trial at the High Court in London [File: AP]

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay a Nigerian fishing community about $83.5m for the worst oil spill ever suffered in the African nation's southern delta region. Wednesday's agreement ends a three-year legal battle in Britain over two spills in 2008 that destroyed thousands of hectares of mangroves and the fish and shellfish that sustained villagers of the Bodo community.

It 'is thought to be one of the largest payouts to an entire community following environmental damage,' the claimants' London lawyers, Leigh Day, said.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant said it was paying $53.1 million to 15,600 fishermen and farmers and $30.4 million to their Bodo community.

'We've always wanted to compensate the community fairly,' said Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of Shell Nigeria, which is 55 percent owned by the Nigerian government.

The out-of-court settlement averted a full trial at the High Court in London and the money has been paid to the claimants' lawyers.

Shell originally offered $6,000 to the entire community, Leigh Day said.

Sunmonu said Shell also has agreed and is 'fully committed' to a cleanup.

Chief Sylvester Kogbara, chairman of the Bodo Council of Chiefs and Elders, said he hoped 'that Shell will take their host communities seriously now' and embark on a cleanup of all of Ogoniland. A UN Environment Programme report has estimated it could take up to 30 years to fully rehabilitate Ogoniland, an area where villagers have been in conflict with Shell for decades. Kogbara said the community money will be used to provide needed basic services.

'We have no health facilities, our schools are very basic, there's no clean water supply,' he told The Associated Press news agency.

Individually, he said villagers are discussing setting up as petty traders and other small businesses until their environment is restored.

Each person gets 2,200 pounds ($3,340) in a country where the minimum monthly wage is less than $100.

Tragedy Shell's Sunmonu insisted that oil theft and illegal refining remain 'the real tragedy of the Niger Delta' and 'areas that are cleaned up will simply become re-impacted.' Amnesty International said Shell continues to blame oil theft for spills - which means it does not have to pay compensation - when the company's own documents state its aging oil pipelines present a 'major risk and hazard'.

Shell had argued that only 4,000 barrels of oil were spilled in Bodo while Amnesty International used an independent assessor who put it at over 100,000 barrels - considered the largest ever oil spill in mangroves.

'Oil pollution in the Niger Delta is one of the biggest corporate scandals of our time,' said Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International. She said thousands more people remain at risk because of Shell's failure to fix aging and dilapidated pipelines.

Source: AP

AFRICA ... Truth elusive in Nigeria oil spill probes ... In southern Nigeria, citizens allege oil companies are influencing investigations of spills to avoid responsibility.
27 Nov 2013 14:49 GMT | Africa

Yvonne Ndege ... Correspondent

Oil spills have had a disastrous impact on people in Goi, in Nigeria's Gokana area.

Rivers State, where Gokana is located, is one of the richest oil producing areas in the country. In 2008, however, an oil spill caused major pollution, devastating villagers' land, and shattering the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people. The oil giant Shell admitted responsibility for the disaster, community members tell us.

But, they say, Shell underplayed the scale of the spill.

People here have welcomed a new report by Amnesty International that accuses oil companies of giving false and misleading information to the public about the causes and scale of oil spills.

Given the environment in which they operate, oil companies do theoretically have the ability to falsify and manipulate information about the causes and extent of spills, as Amnesty alleges. The oil companies, first and foremost have a monopoly on the information about their operations and infrastructure. They also have the financial resources, manpower, and technical expertise to conduct investigations. These investigations will often take place in highly secure and sometimes remote zones, often with the private security and state security personnel working on the side of the oil companies.

In contrast, many of the victims of oil spills are uneducated and poor. With no know-how or resources to understand, analyse or independently verify most of the findings of the investigations.

Amnesty strongly criticises the Joint Investigation Visits (JIVs) that are sometimes organised by oil companies after a spill occurs.

They're designed to bring representatives from the oil companies and community members together, often at spill sites, to investigate what happened.

Community members that Al Jazeera spoke to in Goi strongly criticised the process, however, accusing oil companies of manipulating locals into signing JIV reports that blame spills on vandalism of oil infrastructure . Eric Doh, one community leader, accuses Shell of falsifying his signature on a JIV report.

The oil companies named in the Amnesty report, including Shell and Agip (owned by the Italian oil giant ENI) robustly deny all the allegations made by Amnesty, as well as accusations like those made by of Doh. They say many oil spills are caused by pipeline vandalism. The Nigerian government admits oil theft by locals is a huge problem. One independent organisation says at least 100,000 barrels of oil a day are stolen in this way, with many attemps causing oil spills.

Many of the people of Goi are resigned to the belief that it's almost impossible to effectively argue against what oil companies say about the causes and scale oil spills.

They feel, however, that the Amnesty report has raised important questions about the oil spill investigation and reporting practices.

They say they hope it will spur the Nigerian government to take the lead in investigating oil spills. But some doubt that will happen, because the Nigerian government is heavily invested in the oil sector. If the government puts pressure on those oil companies it is in partnerships with, they may leave Nigeria and decide to do business elsewhere.

When questioned, the Nigerian authorities, however, say they're putting mechanisms in place to ensure that spills are independently and truthfully probed.

AlJazeera English ... Humanitarian crises, Business & Economy, Niger, Nigeria, United Kingdom
07 Jan 2015 07:29 GMT
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