- Title: NIGERIA: Community rejects Shell oil spill compensation offer
- Date: 17th September 2013
- Summary: BAYELSA STATE, NIGERIA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PIPELINE INSTALLATION
- Embargoed: 2nd October 2013 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Business,Industry,Energy
- Reuters ID: LVADQYX1NOPBYML3BZECJOUZ7FWO
- Story Text: For years, the Bodo fishing community in Nigeria's Bayelsa state have seen their homeland contaminated by oil spills from multinational companies near by, leaving an overwhelming smell in the air as crude oil spreads into wetlands and fields where residents grow their crops.
Christian Lekova Kpandei, a farmer in the area says people here can no longer depend on their trade.
"Our main occupation is fishing and farming and because of the spill that occurred the entire fishing industry and as many that were depending on the proceeds, everything that comes out of the sea, they were no longer having it and now the spill caused a lot of poverty in Bodo," he said.
A vast maze of mangrove swamps and creeks, the delta is home to Africa's largest oil and gas industry and 95% of Nigeria's foreign exchange comes from crude oil. But residents have seen little benefit from the multi-billion-dollar industry, and communities that once lived off farming and fishing can no longer depend on their trade.
Last year, Nigerians launched a suit against Shell at the High Court in London, seeking millions of dollars in compensation for two oil spills in 2008 that polluted the waterways of the Bodo fishing communities in the Niger Delta.
But in recent developments, communities in the Delta on Friday (September. 13) rejected an offer of compensation from Royal Dutch Shell for damage done to their livelihoods by oil spills from pipelines operated by the company.
A source close to Shell and another source involved in the negotiations told Reuters the company offered total compensation of 7.5 billion naira ($46.3 million).
Failure to reach a settlement means the Anglo-Dutch oil major and around 15,000 members of the Bodo fishing communities in southeastern Nigeria remain locked in litigation.
The community's lawyers said they will now go back to a British court to request a trial timetable.
The legal action is being closely watched by the oil industry and by environmentalists for precedents that could have an impact on other big pollution claims against majors.
Morris Alagoa, is an environmental activist based in Rivers State.
"The people have a very good stand to say, Shell come back let us discuss. It is not acceptable, how many years? 250,000 naira (US$1,520), what is that? It is a peanut. If you give it to me too, I won't accept it because it is the means of the people and livelihood that has been destroyed and not even that it has ended, even if you pay them now. That environment is nothing to write home about. You cannot fish, you cannot farm. So they should calculate even more into the years ahead and pay to the people of Bodo. I think it is not only ridiculous, it is not acceptable, Shell should own up and own responsibility to the people in that environment," said Alagoa.
Shell accepts responsibility for the Bodo spills but the two sides disagree about the volume spilt and the number of local people who lost their livelihoods as a result.
Citing independent experts, Leigh Day says up to 600,000 barrels of crude were spilt, which would make it one of the worst in history.
The volume spilt in Alaska in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster was put at 257,000 barrels.
But Shell, citing a report by a joint investigative team not controlled by the firm, puts the volume spilt in the two original incidents at just 4,100 barrels.
Shell accepts that a significantly higher volume of oil was spilt later but says this was due to other factors including sabotage. It has complained that its clean-up teams were at times denied access to sites by local groups.
The Niger Delta has for years been plagued by a range of problems including environmental degradation, kidnappings, theft of crude from pipelines, armed rebellions, and conflict between communities over clean-up contracts or compensation deals.
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