OIL giant Shell came to a settlement in London today agreeing to pay a Nigerian fishing community £55 million in compensation for the worst oil spill in the country’s history.
Two spills in 2008 destroyed vast swathes of mangrove forest and decimated fish and shellfish populations, destroying the livelihoods of the Bodo community in the Niger delta.
The sum is one of the largest payouts to a community following environmental damage by a major company and could see other victims of corporate pollution encouraged to bring cases forward.
It “may open the floodgates for other communities around the world to sue companies,” according to litigation expert George Frynas.
“We hope that in future Shell will properly consider claims such as these from the outset and that this method of compensation, with each affected individual being compensated, will act as a template for Shell in future cases,” said Martyn Day of Leigh Day & Co.
Bodo community leader Chief Sylvester Kogbara said villagers were considering setting up small trading businesses until the environment is safe to resume fishing.
The agreement signed means around 15,600 fishermen and farmers will receive £2,200 each.
In addition around £20m will go towards providing basic services. “We have no health facilities, our schools are very basic, there’s no clean water supply,” Mr Kogbara said.
Shell has agreed to start a clean-up process, although the UN believes it could take three decades to undo the damage.