The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and several civil society groups have turned down an offer of financial compensation from the Bodo community after defeating Shell in a landmark suit that has been in court since 2008 for which the company settled out of court for the sum of $84 million.
The offer of compensation was turned down when ERA/FoEN, Oilwatch and Host Communities Network (HoCoN) visited the community to celebrate with them in Bodo, Rivers State, last week.
ERA/FoEN has been the arrowhead of campaigns to get Shell to compensate the locals for two massive spills that occurred in 2008, depriving about 13,000 fish farmers their trade for five years. The community maintained that Shell failed to carry out a proper cleaning of the environment after the incident, until the Dutch government intervened, which culminated in the initiation of talks between Shell and Bodo community on the cleanup process.
Under the out of court settlement agreement, 11,500 persons will share the $84 million which Shell agreed to pay as compensation.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo said: “Today we are in celebratory mode. We wish to commend the Bodo people for their victory over Shell after six torturous years of twists and turns aimed at evading justice”.
Ojo explained that while the sum remains paltry in the face of Shell’s assault on the environment and their livelihoods, the victory of the people would serve to galvanise other impacted people to also seek justice.
Speaking with the community leaders, Ojo said that: “We applaud your courage. Shell would have preferred that the case remains in perpetuity until the community tires out, but your resilience in the face of such intimidating might forced the company’s hands”
Further, he pointed out that the victory of the Bodo community over Shell is the victory for civil society and people in Nigeria and everywhere suffering from the activities of multinationals.
Receiving the delegates, the Chairman of the Bodo Council of Chiefs, Chief Sylvester Kogbara explained that the struggle and victory against Shell could not have been possible if not for ERA/FoEN and other national and international organizations that were involved in fighting the company.
When we cried you cried with us, and when we were weeping you wept with us. You made our pains your pain. Whatever we have achieved today, ERA/FoEN was part of it. You are always here with us. A day of thanksgiving is coming and we will remember all you have put in and also compensate you.”
Deputy paramount Ruler of Bodo City said in his remarks, “We are very pleased with ERA/FoEN for coming to pay us an official visit today. The situation is not over, we need you to continue to fight for environmental justice with us because Shell is yet to begin clean up and restoration of the destroyed environment in Bodo.”
Godwin Ojo thanked the council of chiefs and the Bodo people for their kind gesture to compensate ERA/FoEN but however said that ERA/FoEN will not take a penny and no civil society will no matter how much time and energy has been expended on pursuing the case.
The highpoint of the celebration was the opening up of a register of victims of Shell’s abuse at individual and community levels by ERA/FoEN after which victims were urged to come up for documentation and possible legal action against the company.
In the words of Ojo: “Shell must not be allowed to escape from its human rights violations and environmental degradation of the Niger Delta.”