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‘Long-awaited’ $84 million payout goes through for oil spill-afflicted community

Community members devastated by Shell oil spills along the Niger delta will finally receive a payout for damages incurred. Creative Commons: Terry Whalebone, 2007.

Community members devastated by Shell oil spills along the Niger delta will finally receive a payout for damages incurred. Creative Commons: Terry Whalebone, 2007.

After a lengthy, impassioned battle against Shell heavyweights, community members devastated by oil spills along the Niger delta will finally receive an $84 million payout.

The six-year long legal action wrapped up with Royal Dutch Shell assuming responsibility for major oil spills occurring in 2008 and 2009, and agreeing to pay 15,600 Nigerian fishermen $3,300 each for damages incurred.

The spills were caused by pipeline operational failures, subjecting the nearby Bodo community to environmental devastation that impacted their livelihood.

According to the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, the extent of these impacts was largely due to a “scourge of oil theft and illegal refining.” Despite these claims, Bodo community members argued that Shell downplayed their responsibility to protect their infrastructure from damages caused by such things.

Amnesty International, which conducted an independent analysis of the impacts of the spill on the Bodo community, agrees that this payout is a long awaited victory, but remains dubious of Shell’s sense of accountability throughout this process.

“It shouldn’t have taken six years to get anything close to fair compensation,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

Shell has publicly assumed responsibility for impacts caused by approximately 4,000 barrels of oil. Meanwhile, Amnesty International, said that the magnitude of the volume was likely closer to 10,000 barrels of oil.

Bodo community members rejected a $50 settlement offer last July, arguing that the offer only took into account operational incidents, and neglected the oil company’s responsibility to protect their pipelines from vandalism and oil theft.

Clients are “absolutely delighted” with the outcome of this case, according to Martyn Day, the lawyer representing the Bodo community, noting that this is one of the largest sums paid out to an entire community subjected to environmental devastation. Some members from Bodo are hoping that this money goes towards improving their circumstances and is invested in education, agriculture, health, and even water supplies.

According to Day, the initial compensation offered to the entire community by Shell was as low as $6,000.

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