Shell (foolishly) Settles Nigeria Case
Oil Giant to Pay $15.5 Million Over Deaths of Activists
By ISABEL ORDONEZ and RUSSELL GOLD
Royal Dutch Shell PLC agreed Monday to pay $15.5 million to settle a lawsuit over the 1995 deaths of Nigerian author and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and others.
The Anglo-Dutch oil giant faced a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan under the Alien Tort Claims Act, on allegations that it was complicit in the 1995 deaths of Mr. Saro-Wiwa and other activists. The lawsuit was brought by family members and surviving activists.
Shell has denied it played any role in the execution of Mr. Saro-Wiwa by the military government. In a statement, Malcolm Brinded, head of the company's exploration and production unit, said: "Shell has always maintained the allegations were false. While we were prepared to go to court to clear our name, we believe the right way forward is to focus on the future for Ogoni people, which is important for peace and stability in the region."
A massive oil spill in Ogoniland in 1970 inspired Mr. Saro-Wiwa, founder of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People to launch two decades later a campaign against Shell's Nigerian onshore unit. The campaign led to the abandoning of oil production in Ogoniland in 1993.
The Ogonis' plight was the focus of global criticism of the oil industry when Mr. Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists were executed by a Nigerian military regime in 1995.
Plaintiffs said $5 million of the settlement amount would go into a trust fund for the Ogoni people and the balance for lawyers fees and to the 10 plaintiffs who brought the case.
"It has been a good case to help set the foundation for allowing human rights plaintiffs to get some degree of accountability from corporations," said Paul Hoffman, the trial counsel for the plaintiffs.