BP may be paying out money faster than its going out of fashion for the Gulf of Mexico spill, but its arch-rival Shell is still not ready to part with its cash.
Yesterday, the oil giant’s Nigerian subsidiary, SPDC, announced that it was going to appeal against the judgment of a Federal High Court, which ordered Shell pay a whopping Naira15.4bn (or over $100 million) damages to the Ejama Ebubu Community in Rivers State over a notorious oil spill dating back to 1970.
Shell has always tried to argue that the spill occurred during the Nigerian civil war, when advancing troops set up the leak and was nothing to do with its operations.
In court, Shell also tried to argue that the case was too old, but this argument was rejected by the Judge who countered that if it had been just one spill in 1970, that might be fine. But because the spills have continued until now the case was valid.
The case, which had lasted nine years, had gone through 3 judges, and numerous attempts by Shell to get the case thrown out.
The judge noted: ““I have, upon calm assessment on the unchallenged evidence of the plaintiffs, that cases cited and relied upon, which I read and come to one and only inevitable conclusion, that the case of the plaintiffs have merit and accordingly accept the evidence that is capable of belief. Indeed, from the nature of the damages caused, the amount of general damages claimed is not exaggerated.”
As well as the judge ordering Shell pay N5.4 billion for loss of crops, loss of income; injurious affection, forestry; and hunting income, he also awarded punitive damages of N10 billion for “for general inconveniences, acid rain, pollution of underground water and hardship to the population who have been deprived of the right to self sustenance, education and good life.”
Not surprising the judgement was welcomed by the communities. MOSOP – the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People – said “This is one of other applaudable efforts that would help bring justice to the continued reckless and irresponsible activities of the oil companies operating in Ogoni and other parts of the Niger Delta and their disregard of the rights of people, who have been deprived of the right to self sustenance, education and good life.
MOSOP continued: “We hope that Shell will stop its legal filibuster, which had kept the case in court for almost a decade and deprived the community of justice for decades. If Shell wishes to convince the world that it appreciates Ogoniland and other areas of the Niger Delta and not just profits, then it should take elementary lesson from the Gulf of Mexico BP spill, where even before ascertainment of cause and containment of the spill, local fishermen were being compensated to the extent that some affected fisher folks said they got more than their usual revenue. Our people deserve no less.”
So what does Shell go and do? It has appealed the judgement, and its lawyers walked out of the court…