According to the Times (and many other sources) Royal Dutch Shell will pay $15.5 million (£9.6 million) to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of colluding with Nigeria’s former military regime over the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other peaceful anti-oil protesters. (See my earlier post here )
Shell admitted no wrongdoing in reaching the settlement, which will be used to compensate the families of Mr Saro-Wiwa and eight other civilians maimed or hanged by the regime. The money will also be used to set up a development trust for the Ogoni people from the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria.
US law allows overseas nationals to sue companies registered in America for human rights abuses. Shell spent 13 years attempting to get the claims against it and Brian Anderson ( a former managing director of the company’s Nigerian business) thrown out of court but was told in April by a New York judge that the case would go to trial.
The company said that it agreed to a settlement “in recognition of the tragic turn of events in Ogoni land, even though Shell had no part in the violence that took place”.
According to the lawsuit against Shell, the company encouraged Nigeria’s military regime to clamp down on Mr Saro-Wiwa because his activities threatened lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta. The suit also claimed that Shell representatives met Sani Abacha, then Nigeria’s military president, to discuss the tribunal and told associates in advance that Mr Saro-Wiwa would be found guilty. The lawsuit against Mr Anderson alleged that he met Owens Wiwa, Mr Saro-Wiwa’s brother, and offered to secure the Mosop leader’s freedom in a return for a halt to the group’s protests. Dr Wiwa was later forced to flee Nigeria, having also been detained and tortured by the military regime.
Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s executive director for exploration and production, said yesterday: “While we were prepared to go to court to clear our name, we believe the right way forward is to focus on the future for Ogoni people, which is important for peace and stability in the region.”
Judith Chomsky, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which helped to bring the case against Shell, said that the settlement showed that “corporations, no matter how powerful, will be held to universal human rights standards”.