Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta have suffered yet another significant legal setback. The oil company has been ordered by a Nigerian Court to pay $1.5 billion in damages to communities in Ijaw in Baylesa State for polluting their creeks and despoiling their crops.
The court decision is seen as a significant setback for Shell, already reeling from recent attacks on its installations and a spate of hostage-taking. Shell is also refusing to abide by another court ruling that has ordered the company to stop gas flaring.
It is now forty years since the first communities in the Delta started complaining of the routine pollution, gas flaring and double standards of the oil industry. It is now over a decade since the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who campaigned passionately and non-violently against Shell for, as he called it, practicing genocide against his people the Ogoni.
In the last decade, the vortex of violence, pollution and poverty has continued. It begs the question for Shell that despite all the glossy public relations pamphlets and brochures, unless it fundamentally changes the nature of its operations in the Delta then its operations in Nigeria, will continued to be dogged by conflict.
So what has Shell done in response to the recent court judgement? Instead of saying it will pay up, it says it will appeal as “there is no evidence to support the claims”.
In response, the Ijaw say that unless Shell do pay up, the company will be forced to leave Ijawland. And so the cycle continues. Will Shell ever learn?