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Shell oil agrees to payout over Nigerian spill

January 7, 2015

Shell oil has struck a deal for two payouts in Nigeria, one to fishermen and a second to their community, after oil spills in 2008 devastated their livelihoods. It could take decades to fully clean the affected area.

Ölverschmutzung in Nigeria
Image: Kadir van Lohuizen/NGO Milieudefensie

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay a Nigerian fishing community 55 million British pounds ($83.5 million) for its role in the worst oil spill in Nigeria's history, ending a three-year legal battle, both parties announced Wednesday.

The Nigerian arm of the Anglo-Dutch energy behemoth, Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria (SPDC), will make the payout to 15,600 fishermen in the southern town of Bodo. Each individual will receive around 2,200 pounds, equivalent to three years' income on Nigerian minimum wage.

Shell originally offered 4,000 pounds to the whole community, according to the town's London-based lawyer Leigh Day. Day also claims some 600,000 barrels of oil poured in the Niger River because of SPDC's negligence.

Two serious spills occurred in Bodo 2008, caused by operation failures on the Bomu-Bonny pipeline, destroying thousands of acres of mangroves and the fish populations that sustained the people of Bodo in the Niger Delta.

SPDC called the leaks "highly regrettable," but insisted that most of the oil pollution in the river came from theft and illegal refining, not neglected pipelines. SPDC managing director Mutiu Sunmonu said that Shell was "fully committed" to the cleanup operation, which is being overseen by the former Netherlands ambassador to Nigeria.

Chief Sylvester Kogbara, head of the Bodo Council of Chiefs and Elders, said that he hoped "Shell will take their host communities seriously now." A UN report suggested it could take 30 years to fully rehabilitate Bodo and the surrounding region, Ogoniland, where villagers have been pitted against the oil company for decades.

es/bk (AP, AFP)