Royal Dutch Shell (Shell), one of the world’s six “supermajor” oil companies, on Wednesday announced it will pay N 45.9 billion (naira) (US $111.6 million) in settling a decades-long legal dispute concerning an oil spill that occurred during the Biafran-Nigerian civil war.
A coalition of ten Ogoni community members led by Chief Isaac Agbara in Eleme, Rivers State brought the suit in 1991 seeking damages against the Nigerian branch of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for widespread pollution caused by a ruptured pipeline in 1970. Shell never accepted responsibility, blaming the oil spill on a “third party.”
The announcement follows an order from the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that Shell must pay the settlement within 21 days. Justice Ahmed Mohammed ruled against Shell’s request that the money be paid to the court, further ordering that the payment must go directly to the Ogoni peoples’ lawyer, Lucius Nwosa.
After nearly 20 years, a Nigerian court fined SPDC approximately US $41 million in 2010. Shell launched several appeals which ultimately proved unsuccessful. The Nigerian Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in favor of the community in 2019. In January, two years after the supreme court’s ruling, authorities seized assets belonging to First Bank of Nigeria—one of the nation’s largest banks—to recover damages still owed by Shell.
The final sum represents the original 2010 judgment plus interest for the past eleven years. Regarding Wednesday’s decision, Nwosa said “[Shell] ran out of tricks and decided to come to terms…the decision is a vindication of the resoluteness of the community for justice.”
This is the latest major legal development for Shell. In January, a Dutch court found Shell liable for several oil spills throughout Nigeria. Most recently, another Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its company-wide carbon emissions by at least 45% at the end of 2030, relative to 2019 levels.