Cheers in Nigeria after Shell agrees to pay $15.5 million
Despite the settlement, the oil firm denies complicity in the former military government's execution of antidrilling activists in the mid-1990s. Activists say the case is 'an important first step' toward justice in the region.
Johannesburg, South Africa
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As part of the out-of-court settlement mediated in New York City, Shell has agreed to pay $15.5 million to the families of environmental activists in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region, including that of author Ken Saro-Wiwa. The families had alleged that Shell had provided arms to the Nigerian government for the repression of the Ogoni people, who live in areas where Shell was operating.
Shell says it welcomes the settlement as the beginning of a "reconciliation" process, but denies the allegations lodged against it.
"Shell has always maintained the allegations were false," says Malcolm Brinded, Shell's chief spokesman. "While we were prepared to go to court to clear our name, we believe the right way forward is to focus on the future for the Ogoni people, which is important for peace and stability in the region."
By paying $15.5 million to the families of the nine Ogoni activists, Shell "acknowledges that, even though Shell had no part in the violence that took place, the plaintiffs and others have suffered," Mr. Brinded says.
Closure for a long legal battle?
Shell's settlement closes the chapter on one of the longest legal battles brought by indigenous people against large oil companies prospecting around the world. In Indonesian courts, Exxon Mobil faces a civil suit alleging that the company's guards kidnapped and tortured local villagers. In Ecuador, Chevron faces a potentially massive judgment for alleged environmental damage in the Amazon rain forest. Shell's case is significant, however, because of the sheer amount of oil that comes from the Niger Delta. More oil comes to the US from the Gulf of Guinea than from the Saudi Arabian peninsula.
Shell hopes its settlement will close the door on a very contentious period, but activists say this may be just the beginning.