Shell agrees to pay Nigeria, the Ogonis and Saro Wiwa’s family $15.5 million

Publié le par hort

http://www.nytimes. com/2009/ 06/09/business/ global/09shell. html?th&emc= th

Shell to Pay $15.5 Million to Settle Nigerian Case
By Jad Mouawad

June 9, 2009


Royal Dutch Shell, the big oil company, agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle a case accusing it of taking part in human rights abuses in the Niger Delta in the early 1990s, a striking sum given that the company has denied any wrongdoing.

The settlement, announced late Monday, came days before the start of a trial in New York that was expected to reveal extensive details of Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta. The announcement caps a protracted legal battle that began shortly after the death of the Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995.
Mr. Saro-Wiwa, Shell’s most prominent critic at the time in Nigeria, was hanged by that country’s military regime after protesting the company’s environmental practices in the oil-rich delta, especially in his native Ogoni region.

Shell continued Monday to deny any role in the death. It called the settlement a “humanitarian gesture” meant to compensate the plaintiffs, including Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s family, for their loss and to cover a portion of their legal fees and costs. Some of the money will go into an educational and social trust fund intended to benefit the Ogoni people. In a statement, the company said the agreement “will provide funding for the trust and a compassionate payment to the plaintiffs and the estates they represent in recognition of the tragic turn of events in Ogoni land, even though Shell had no part in the violence that took place.”

“Shell has always maintained the allegations were false,” Malcolm Brinded, the company’s executive director for exploration and production, said in the statement. Shell said that the trust being set up is in addition to the contribution to community development made by Shell-run companies in the Niger Delta. According to Shell, these payments totaled more than $240 million in 2008. Ten plaintiffs, including the son of Mr. Saro-Wiwa and his brother, accused Shell of seeking the aid of the former Nigerian regime to silence the critic, as well as paying soldiers who had carried out human rights abuses in the impoverished region where it operated.

Mr. Saro-Wiwa, who founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni Peoples in 1990, was one of Shell’s most forceful critics because of the damage done to the delta communities, including gas flaring and the destruction of mangroves to make way for pipelines.  The Niger Delta continues to be marred by violence and ethnic strife.
Much of Shell’s production in the delta is still the target of militants seeking a larger share of the country’s oil wealth. The prominent case involving Shell was the latest to challenge the behavior of some of the world’s biggest oil companies in developing countries. Companies are increasingly being called to account for their environmental record as well as any collusion with repressive governments.

The suit was brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, an arcane United States law that has been increasingly used for lawsuits asserting human rights violations occurring overseas. The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 in 2004 that foreigners could bring cases before American courts in some limited circumstances, like crimes against humanity or torture, and the courts have decided that a wide variety of defendants, including multinational corporations, can be called to account. Royal Dutch Shell is headquartered in the Netherlands.

So far, no corporation has been found guilty under the alien tort law. Last year, a jury cleared Chevron of wrongdoing after it was accused of complicity in the shooting of Nigerian villagers who occupied an offshore oil barge in 1998 to protest its environmental record and hiring practices. In 2004, Unocal, a California oil company that was accused of using slave labor in the construction of a pipeline in Burma during the 1990s, agreed to compensate villagers there. The terms of that settlement were not made public. For the Nigerian plaintiffs and their lawyers, Shell’s settlement, including publication of the sum involved, is a significant victory. Companies commonly demand that details of such settlements be kept secret, for fear of setting precedents. “It has been a really long struggle,” said Jennie Greene, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the case on behalf of the plaintiffs. “But this shows that corporations cannot act without accountability.”

Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., the son of the slain rights advocate, was also satisfied with the outcome.

“We hope this sends a signal,” he said in a telephone interview from London. “It’s a relief also that we’ve been able to draw a line over the past. And from a legal perspective, this historic case means that corporations will have to be much more careful.”

 
http://www.thisdayo nline.com/ nview.php? id=145716

Nigeria: Saro-Wiwa Jnr - How We'll Use Compensation Money

Paul Ohia, Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, Ejiofor Alike and Ahamefula Ogbu
10 June 2009


Lagos — Ken Saro-Wiwa Jnr, son of the late writer Saro Wiwa, has applauded Monday's decision by Royal Dutch Shell to pay compensation to his family and those of the other eight Ogoni leaders executed along with his father in 1995 by the late General Sani Abacha military junta.He gave a breakdown of how the $15.5 million (N2.3 billion) Shell agreed to pay would be utilised. Also yesterday, Shell explained that it resorted to the settlement to aid the "process of reconciliation" and on humanitarian ground.

The oil giant had been facing charges in the United States over alleged complicity in abuses under the country's military rulers, but two days ago, it agreed to pay $15.5 million in settlement of the legal action over the execution, though it did not accept complicity in the killing.

Saro-Wiwa Jnr said in a statement he issued yesterday that 55 per cent of the fee or $8.5 million would go to the Ogoni community in the vehicle of the Kiisi Trust Fund and to cover the legal fees.  “The balance, $7 million, will be shared equally between the 10 plaintiffs. In short, each plaintiff and their family will receive $700,000 to be shared within their respective homes," he said.  According to him, "no amount of money can ever compensate us for the pain we have endured and financial compensation was not the main consideration in filing the lawsuit." He said: "On behalf of my father and my family, I'd like to thank all Nigerians and friends who have supported us over the years and through this recent period in our efforts to seek justice for my father.

"I know many, many Nigerians have been especially supportive and appreciative of our efforts and in our recent decision to accept Shell's offer to settle our case in the United States. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that there were 10 plaintiffs in this matter and that we sought relief as private individuals and not for the Ogoni as a community.

"We have always been mindful that we did not seek to speak or act on behalf of the Ogoni but were nevertheless always considerate of the symbolic nature of our cases for our people, the Niger Delta and for Nigeria.
It was with such sentiments in mind that we sought to insist on a settlement that provided for the community and also promoted the notion of creative justice and non-violence that my father always advocated."Although we did not go to trial in the end, we have still set a legal precedent that will serve as a deterrent to corporations operating in the Niger Delta and other natural resource bearing communities. "But more than that, I hope and believe that this settlement provides for a creative justice - it offers a model of constructive engagement and mutual benefits to all stakeholders in the business of oil production.

"The settlement has been crafted over a long period of deliberation and I was gratified by the determination of individuals who were able to reach beyond the corporate identity and ethos of their organisations to seek solutions to an issue that had defeated governments and international organisations."In the rush and euphoria of the moment I would urge our supporters to continue to remember my father's commitment to dialogue to see this settlement for what it is - an opportunity to move beyond the tired, old and unproductive ways of conflict and mutual hostility."

The Managing Director of Shell's Nigeria Subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, said the company resorted to the settlement to aid the process of reconciliation.

He said the company was hopeful that the humanitarian gesture would bring peace and normalcy to Ogoniland. SPDC is one of the three Shell companies that settled for compensation in New York on Monday over alleged complicity in the execution of Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995. The other defendants are Shell Petroleum NV and Shell Transport and Trading Company Limited.

A statement signed by Precious Okolobo, a spokesman of the SPDC, said by the settlement, the company had acknowledged that the plaintiffs and others suffered from the tragic turn of events in Ogoniland, even though it had nothing to do with the violence that took place.He reiterated the company's belief that the allegation was false; stressing that Shell was prepared to clear its name in court.

Okolobo said: "Shell has always maintained the allegations were false and has been fully prepared to clear its name in court. However, the opportunity arose to settle the case by making a humanitarian gesture that would benefit the people of Ogoni and help reconciliation and peace, and the return to normality in Ogoniland.

"The settlement also acknowledges that the plaintiffs and others suffered from the tragic turn of events in Ogoni, even though Shell had nothing to do with the violence that took place. "We hope that this settlement will be an opportunity that helps the plaintiffs and the people of Ogoni to move forward."

The settlement and other payments totalling $15.5 million, the company added, would provide funding for the trust and a compassionate payment to the plaintiffs and the estates they represent in recognition of the tragic turn of events in Ogoniland. "The trust is in addition to the contribution to community development that Shell-run companies make in the Niger Delta, including Ogoni land, which in 2008 totalled $240 million," the statement read.

Kenneth, son of the late Kobani, one of the Ogoni Four leaders killed in the wake of the crisis in Ogoniland, declined to react to the development last night, saying he would restrain himself from making any comment yet until he had studied the terms of the settlement. But Victoria, wife of the late Kobani, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN): "We are still aggrieved with Shell.
Paying compensation for the blood of these innocent people will not bring Shell back again to any part of Ogoniland for oil exploitation. "

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), a group led by the late Saro-Wiwa, welcomed the settlement, but vowed to resist any attempt by Shell to return to Ogoni, saying the relationship between the company and the Ogoni people had completely collapsed.
Reacting to the development yesterday, MOSOP asked Shell to extend its reparation to other Ogonis and Niger Deltans who were killed in the wake of the crisis.The group made it clear that commending the agreement to pay for settlement of the matter does not equate agreeing to the return of Shell to Ogoniland, insisting that "our welcoming the settlement of this claim in no way means the ushering in of a new era of understanding between Shell and the Ogoni people"."We thus urge the transnational oil corporation to respect its sack from Ogoni by the Federal Government of Nigeria and stop undermining the national government's hailed position as its social and moral licences with the Ogoni people have completely collapsed," MOSOP said.

Pointing out that no amount of pecuniary compensation would be enough for the lives lost in the abuse of their rights and their degraded environment, MOSOP Information Officer, Mr. Bari-ara Kpalap, said the agreement to compensate the people should be accompanied with the change of attitude in their method of operation than repent today only to repeat the problem later.

He added: "It is MOSOP's hope that the settlement of this claim should act as a tonic for the Federal Government to immediately engage on the resolution of the outstanding fundamental issues on the Ogoni question as well as follow up on an accelerated development of not only Ogoni but also the rest of the Niger Delta. It is our view that significant dividend could be reaped from the undoubted national and international visibility of the Ogoni cause if a positive precedent could be set for its just and credible resolution".

Also reacting, Saro-Wiwa's brother, Dr. Owen Wiwa, told THISDAY that the settlement would make companies live up to their social responsibilities to their host communities.
According to him, the payment had opened the path to justice for the people of Niger Delta and others around the world suffering under the exploitation of multinationals. He said the significance of the settlement is that it had unfastened another approach for millions of Niger Deltans whom hitherto had been tasty for justice and would also make companies operating in the region more conscious of their corporate social responsibilities. "It will make companies to be very careful and I believe it will improve the way companies behave" he said, adding that people now have the chance to seek redress against erring companies.

However, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described the outcome of the suit as a significant milestone in the search for justice in the bloody oil fields of the Niger Delta. Lawyers of relatives of executed nine Ogoni leaders said they were thrilled that Shell agreed to pay compensation. Shell denies any wrongdoing but said it welcomed the settlement as part of a process of reconciliation.

The lawyers said the case showed that corporations were bound by the same human rights standards as individuals. "We litigated with Shell for 13 years and, at the end of the day, the plaintiffs are going to be compensated for the human rights violations they suffered," said Paul Hoffman, a lawyer for the Nigerian families. The case had been due to go to trial in the US next week, but Mr Hoffman said even if his team had won the case, they would still have faced "years of appeals".

Judith Chomsky of the US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and one of the lawyers, who initiated the lawsuit 13 years ago, said she was "thrilled" with the outcome.
She said it sent a message that "corporations, like individuals, must abide by internationally- recognised human rights standards".

$8.5m

For Kiisi Trust Fund & Legal fees

$7m

To be shared by 10 plaintiffs

Publié dans contemporary africa

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