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Shell to Pay $83 Million for Nigerian Oil Spills

FILE - Men walk in an oil slick covering a creek near Bodo City in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria, June 10, 2010.

Amnesty International says oil giant Royal Dutch Shell will pay a landmark $83 million settlement to a fishing community in the Niger Delta for two oil spills there in 2008. The payout is the result of a three-year legal battle in Britain.

Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay more than $53 million to 15,600 people in Bodo in Nigeria’s oil-producing southeast. Another $30 million of the settlement goes to the community as a whole.

Each individual will get $3,200, an amount equal to about three years of earnings at Nigerian minimum wage.

But it has been six years since the spills destroyed the livelihoods of local fishermen and farmers and the area remains polluted.

Bodo community member Patrick Naagbanton worked on the case. He saw the settlement as “good news,” but not an all-out victory.

“The money paid, if you quantify that with the level of damage that they have done to the community, cannot also compensate the community because we are talking about a community here where thousands of people depend on their rivers, on their land for survival and those properties are destroyed. It is going to take several years for those properties can be regained, so no matter the amount of money you pay that can not actually remedy the situation,” he said.

Shell says it is “fully committed” to the clean up that is slated to begin in the next few months. The U.N. Environment Program said in 2011 that it will take 30 years to clean up oil pollution in Ogoniland, where Bodo is located.

Amnesty International, which worked on the case, estimates that more than 100,000 barrels of oil flooded into the Bodo ecosystem during just one of the two 2008 spills. Amnesty says Shell had not replaced what it knew were old and corroded pipelines. Shell denied that claim.

Amnesty says “hundreds of oil spills from Shell’s pipelines occur every year.”

Shell says spills are caused by oil thieves who tap the pipelines for crude and then refine it locally. The company says the theft has reached "unprecedented levels" and told VOA it loses about 30,000 barrels a day due to thieves.