Does the 80-million US dollar payout by Shell to the farmers and fishermen affected by the 2008 crude oil spill in Bodo, Nigeria represent a victory for the embattled environment?
By: Ringo Bones
Social justice campaigners may argue that the 80-milliion US dollar compensation payout to the farmers and fishermen affected by the 2 major oil spills from crude oil pipelines in Bodo, Nigeria back in 2008 as not enough because it just averages to about 3,000 US dollars per affected fisherman and farmer. But to environmental lawyers, the case serves as a precedent that big multinational crude oil processing companies can no longer pollute the environment with impunity – especially if they are operating in regions of the world where environmental pollution laws are next to nonexistent. In short, it is a veritable victory for the environment and subsistence farmers and fisher-folk in a David versus Goliath legal battle against a polluting multinational corporation that’s seemingly devoid of corporate social responsibility.
Though the affected farmers and fisherman may get an average of a little over 3,000 US dollars each as a compensation for lost livelihood, the rest of the 80-million US dollars to be paid out by Shell would be used to clean up the crude oil spill and for subsequent bio-remediation of the area affected by the oil spill. Many are doubtful if the rest of the money will ever be used for bio-remediation of the affected area since Shell during the duration of the court proceedings kept on “passing-the-buck” on the local government of Bodo, Nigeria’s inability to halt crude oil theft of Shell’s pipelines crisscrossing the region.
After three years of legal wrangling for an oil spill that happened almost seven years ago, Shell did try its hardest to absolve itself of legal regal responsibility of the spill citing pipeline tampering and theft of the crude oil and the kidnap for ransom incidence of its workers by local Islamist militias of its repair personnel. And the environmentalists were also concerned that Shell is not entirely admitting to the actual scale of the oil spill – not to mention that Shell did try to “pass-the-buck” to the local contractor in charge of maintaining the pipelines given that the pipelines and the supporting facilities were at the end of their economic life as far back as 2005. Nonetheless, everyone concerned about our embattled environment will be hoping that Shell’s 30-million US dollar compensation will provide enough bio-remediation to the affected region that the local farmers and fisher-folk of Bodo, Nigeria can subsist of the bounty of their natural environment once again.