Last Friday a Nigerian court ordered the Shell Oil Company to pay 1.5 billion dollars to the ethnic Ijaw communities in the Niger Delta as compensation for environmental damage caused by drilling and exploration. Shell was to deposit the money in the Nigeria Central Bank by midday Monday but has refused to pay the fine until the court rules on its appeal. The actions of the oil company have caused outrage among environmentalists and community officials.
Godwin Dibe, an official of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), centered in the oil-rich Imo state, told English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that Shell should take responsibility for the situation. “Since they came to Nigeria for exploration, they have not paid anything to the Niger Delta region, and this will go a long way to alleviate the problems of the masses in the Niger Delta region who have suffered terrible underdevelopment and human degradation. It is advisable and worthwhile for Shell Oil Company to ensure that they pay this money so that it will be utilized for developmental purposes and the provision of infrastructural facilities.”
Dibe says the present unrest of militant groups and sabotage of oil and gas pipelines in the Delta region is a result of the former Nigerian government’s silence on environmental issues. “This is the time in the history of Nigeria that government is taking this giant stride to see that this negotiation is in place and resolved, not because of the restiveness, but for the fact that this is a democratically elected government that is listening.”
Dibe says in the past oil companies have compensated angered communities through minimal upgrades of clinics, health centers, and roads, but the cost of these projects does not near the amount these communities are owed by the oil companies. Shell says vandals are partly to blame for oil spills and pollution in the region.
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