Shell agrees to settlement in Niger Delta oil spills

Royal Dutch Shell on Jan. 7 reached a settlement in a lawsuit concerning the Niger Delta oil spills of 2008. The settlement, totaling $84 million, will be divided between 15,600 individuals who will receive $3,300 each as compensation for losses caused by the spills. The remaining $30 million will be disbursed throughout the community, which also suffered significant damage from the spills. Rights group Amnesty International noted that this settlement is "an important victory for the victims of corporate negligence," but expressed disappointment that it took six years for the victims to be compensated. They argue that Shell knew that the oil spills [which took place near Bodo in October and December 2008] were a distinct possibility since 2002 and took no "effective" action to prevent them from occurring. However, the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Mutiu Sunmonu, contends that they have taken responsibility for the spills from the beginning, and that the spills were due to operational pipe failure. AI also accused Shell of making false claims about the impact of the oil spills in documents presented to a UK court in November. They state that Shell claimed that only 4,000 barrels of oil spilled for both spills but AI believes the number is closer to 100,000 barrels for the first spill alone.

Shell has previously faced legal action in the UK, Netherlands and Nigeria for these and other spills. In 2012, 35 Nigerian villages brought suit against Shell in a London court alleging Shell's slow response in cleaning up two spills in a neighboring river. The villages claimed there was continued contamination due to the inadequate clean-up following the spill. In 2009 a $15.5 million settlement was reached between Shell and the families of nine Ogoni activists killed in 1995. In 2006 a Nigerian court in Port Harcourt ordered Shell to pay $1.5 billion to compensate local communities for pollution caused by the company's activities.

From Jurist, Jan. 7. Used with permission.