The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) has agreed to pay US$83 million in compensation to the Bodo community in Nigeria. The compensation, for two spill incidents in 2008, is a welcome development that could open the door for more communities that have suffered Shell’s environmental assaults to seek legal redress,  said the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).

Shell’s decision to pay the community was arrived at after a settlement meeting with the affected community. While Shell continues to circulate press releases claiming it took responsibility immediately after the incident happened, ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued in Lagos, said “The unrelenting quest for justice by the Bodo community even after six years of frustrating negotiations forced the hands of Shell. The victory goes to the people.”

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “While we see this agreement as a victory for the Bodo community folks who have suffered ecocide and loss of livelihoods, it is also a glimmer of hope for communities that have endured massive degradation from Shell’s leaking and ill-maintained facilities in the Ogoni and elsewhere in the Niger Delta”.

“The amount may seem huge but it is paltry when compared to the ecosystem disturbance and destruction of livelihoods which has denied income to the victims for 6 years in a country where welfare packages are non-existent. This is a victory for the Bodo people and to all those who stood by them. This is another watershed development and with this a floodgate of similar cases of victims in the Niger Delta is bound to increase against Shell”.

Ojo explained that Shell had expected the community to chicken out in the face of their corporate might. It must now be compelled to go beyond piece meal in dealing with the Ogoni issue by complying with the recommendation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) which has a cardinal call for immediate commencement of clean-up of the massively degraded environment.

“In the last four years since the UNEP report was released we have witnessed an unholy alliance of the Nigerian government and Shell manifest in half-steps, deliberate attempts to muddle the issues and the setting up of a Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) that has been used to deceive the Ogoni people.”

We again use this medium to reiterate that the Bodo, the entire Ogoni in collaboration with other Niger Delta communities and civil society approach the United Nations to appoint a Niger Delta Reconciliation and Restoration Commission with autonomy and authority to do so. The oil companies should be required to contribute an initial amount of $100 billion to address the issues.

Projects that do not have input from the Ogoni must be abolished and replaced with an internationally recognized cleanup body mutually agreed to by the communities.

“This victory notwithstanding, it is not time to click glasses. Now is the time to pressure Shell to clean up all the polluted environments of the Niger Delta. Tokens are not enough to cover up Shell’s ecocide ”, Ojo insisted.