06 September 2013, Lagos – As legal team prepares for talks, gulf between what company and impoverished villagers claim happened remains vast.
Five years after a Shell pipeline burst twice, massively polluting fishing grounds in the Niger delta, the company will finally sit down on Monday with affected villagers to negotiate compensation and possibly start to clean up what some experts say was one of the largest spills in one of the world’s poorest regions.
According to The Guardian UK, as Shell’s top legal team prepared to fly to Nigeria for talks in a Port Harcourt hotel, the gulf between what the $175bn (£112bn) a year company and the impoverished villagers of Bodo claim happened in 2008 remains vast.
Shell admits liability for the spills and, using figures from an official inspection group, says that about 4,000 barrels of oil flooded into the mangrove swamps and creeks when its pipeline burst.
But independent analysis by US oil spill expert Richard Steiner suggests it was nearer 500,000 barrels. Equally, the oil company argues that relatively few people had their livelihood destroyed while the villagers say the spills affected up to 11,000 people.
The company is thought to be offering about $20m compensation, but the villagers are holding out for $200m.
On Thursday, both sides squared up to each other in London. “Until the two 2008 spills, Bodo was a relatively prosperous fishing town. The spills have destroyed the fishing industry.
“Shell’s response has not been to try and speedily recompense the people of the community but to delay and prevaricate. Shell … have provided one-off relief materials in June 2009 amounting to 100 bags of rice, beans, sugar, 100 cartons of milk, tea, tomatoes and oil in June 2009 which was entirely inadequate for a community of 31,000 people,” said Martyn Day, senior partner with London law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the Bodo community.
– The Nation