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Last week the Bodo community in Nigeria came to an agreement with Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary (SPDC). Shell is to pay a settlement agreement of £55 (US$84) million, accepting liability for two oil spills that occurred in 2008. Godwin Ojo, from Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) comments the significance of this settlement while pointing to the critical issue that livelihoods in the communities of the Nigerian delta remain unsustained.
Shell has been drilling for oil in the Niger delta since its first oil discovery in 1956. Godwin explains that the Niger delta has ever since then had no rest: “there are land conflicts, pollution and lack of medicine”. He explains that the rural livelihood in the Niger delta is eroded, in terms of fishing, occupation and famine among the population.
The two spills in 2008 caused by Shell made thousands of livelihoods in Bodo to be completely destroyed. On Shell’s webpage one can read that they ”accepted responsibility for the two deeply regrettable operational spills in Bodo”. They further state that they: “always wanted to compensate the community fairly and are pleased to have reached agreement”. Godwin however points to the enormous manner of irresponsibility by Shell, from the beginning not taking complete liability for the spills: “they were offering US$ 5000 to the whole community of Bodo”. Legal actions in the UK against Shell have now forced them to an out-of-court agreement of £55 million. £35 million is to be divided among the community’s 15,600 residents, and the rest goes to the community. Godwin emphasizes that even though £55 million might seem huge: “it does not account for the environmental degradation and losses of livelihood over the years”.
Godwin underlines that the Bodo community is “in celebration mode”. The victory of this court case brings hope to other legal processes in communities of the Niger delta: “there are so many communities that have been suffering in silence”. Nevertheless, he strongly points to this being a small step in a long struggle against the destruction caused in Nigeria: “the money might in the bank but livelihoods are not sustained – the land remains polluted and is not cleaned up - this is the critical issue”.
ERA/FoEN’s message is strong and clear: “Shell should clean up! Shell should pay up!”
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