Shell to Pay $15.5 Million to Settle Nigerian Case

Royal Dutch Shell settles a lawsuit for US$15.5 million over its alleged involvement in the executions of nine people, including environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, in Nigeria.Shell_logo

The lawsuits are three separate lawsuits brought by the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa against Royal Dutch Shell, its subsidiary Shell Nigeria and the subsidiary’s CEO Brian Anderson, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York under the Alien Tort Statute, the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1992 and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

They are charged with complicity in human rights abuses against the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrest, wrongful death, and assault and battery. The lawsuits were filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel from EarthRights International in 1996, and after 12 years of Shell petitioning the court not to hear the cases, they were heard 26 May 2009.

Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic Nigerian minority whose hometown, Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta has been targeted for crude oil extraction since the 1950s and which has suffered extreme and unremediated environmental damage from decades of indiscriminate oil waste dumping.

Initially as spokesperson, and then as President, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Saro-Wiwa led a nonviolent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and natural waters of Ogoniland by the operations of multinational oil companies, especially Shell. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, which he viewed as reluctant to enforce proper environmental regulations on the foreign oil companies operating in the area.

At the peak of his non-violent campaign, Saro-Wiwa was arrested, hastily tried by a special military tribunal, and hanged in 1995 by the Nigerian military government of General Sani Abacha, all on charges widely viewed as entirely politically motivated and completely unfounded. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations.

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