The Anglo-Dutch oil multinational Shell will pay 70 million euros to the people of Bodo, southeast of Nigeria and in the Niger Delta, for the destruction caused by two oil spills that occurred in 2008.
The total oil spilled has been accounted between 280,000 and 600,000 barrels, affecting some 15,000 people in over 35 villages whose main activity is fishing. Overall, residents receive 45 million euros. Another 25 million euros will be invested in the community in building schools and hospitals.
Although Shell attributed the leaks to sabotage of its facilities, it is the first time admits it polluted soil in the two countries.
The case has taken three years to resolve and it ended after a settlement was reached outside court. This settlement is also the first of its kind in the African region.
The agreement was announced by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, a subsidiary of the multinational firm in Nigeria, which has called the spill “two deplorable operational failures“.
According to public documents, 55% of the spill and payment belongs to the Nigerian state, and attorneys for the plaintiffs attribute the slowness of the case to a potential conflict of interest.
“However, if they continue looting in the pipes in the future they will pollute the same territory,” insisted Shell.
According to Amnesty International, dumping of “destroyed fisheries and livestock, increase the price of fish by ten fold. The oil spill reached the reserves of drinking water, damaged the vision and caused headaches to locals“.
In January 2013, a court ordered the Dutch multinational to pay compensation to the victims of two similar spills that took place in 2004 and 2007 in the Niger Delta itself.
According to the United Nations Program for Environment (UNEP), contamination reaching groundwater and spilled mineral can cause fires that may destroy the local vegetation.
The Trans–Niger pipeline owned by Shell, carries the oil to the Bonny terminal port on the Atlantic coast. It was launched in 1953 and it now carries about 180,000 barrels of oil per day.
For its part, the Niger Delta occupies 7.5% of the country and is one of the largest natural reserves in Africa. The area is inhabited by some 31 million people, with a total of 70,000 who live in Bodo.
The two countries have been exposed to six decades of oil extractions without rigorous controls, which has resulted on multiple oil spills.