Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) welcomes the agreement by Shell, to pay a penalty of about 55 million Pounds Sterling (about N16bn) to 15, 600 Bodo fishermen and community for the massive crude oil spills of 2008/2009. It is welcome news for a new year loaded with violence and other unpalatable news.
When compared to what polluting oil companies pay elsewhere for their ecological crimes, HOMEF sees the compensation which will amount to about N600, 000 for each of the plaintiffs with the balance going for community projects – school blocks and health centres – as inadequate for the severity of damage done.
“The fishermen cannot hope to return to fishing in the Bodo rivers and creeks because of the depth of hydrocarbon pollution resulting from the oil spills,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF. He added, “Although the amount being offered each fisherman is better than the pittance that Shell initially offered to pay, this can hardly purchase a good fishing boat and equipment necessary to return to the fishing business that the people know best – that is if they chose to move to other communities with cleaner waters in which to fish. Sadly, although the Bodo pollution also damaged the Goi community waters that community continues to languish in abject neglect without remedy.”
HOMEF sees the main victory in the case as its being a clear precedent, giving a case where Shell accepts liability and is not pretending to be making a pay-out on humanitarian basis as they have claimed in the past. “Since the oil companies do not respect fines imposed on them by Nigerian regulatory agencies, or even the National Assembly, this decision should encourage other communities to bring up cases against Shell and other oil companies operating in the Nigeria, Ghana and other countries,” says George Awudi, a member of the international Advisory Board of HOMEF.
Payment of compensation and building of schools and clinics will not by any means reduce the demand for an urgent clean-up of the Ogoni environment. Three and a half years after the UNEP report the Ogoni people are still waiting for concrete clean up action. HOMEF regrets that in the ongoing political campaigns the political parties do not pay any attention to the severe environmental damage in the Niger Delta and the rest of the nation. A safe environment is a foundational basis for human survival.