Shell pays $15.5 mn to settle Nigeria deaths lawsuit

June 9th, 2009 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New York/Nairobi, June 9 (DPA) Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle a lawsuit accusing it of human rights abuses in Nigeria.
The case was due to go to court in New York next week, but Shell settled in a move it said was not an admission of guilt.

Nine people, including prominent Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, were arrested in 1994 and hanged for allegedly ordering the murder of four local leaders.

However, human rights’ activists said the trial was a sham and was simply a way to get rid of the activists, who were non-violently campaigning against environmental damage caused by drilling in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Relatives of those hanged began to pursue Shell through the courts, saying the company was complicit in the executions.

The lawsuit alleged that Shell helped to arm Nigerian police, took part in security sweeps in Ogoniland and helped the government capture Saro-Wiwa and other protesters.

Protests led by Saro-Wiwa forced Shell to suspend production in Ogoniland in 1993.

While Shell paid out, company official Malcolm Brinded Monday said Shell was not involved in the violence and that the payment was a gesture to acknowledge the suffering of the plaintiffs and to help reconciliation with the Ogoni people.

Around a third of the money would be put into a trust for the Ogoni people while the rest would go to lawyers’ fees and compensation for the families, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil exporters, but continued unrest has cut production by around a fifth.

Militant groups who have attacked oil facilities and kidnapped workers say they are fighting for a fairer share of oil revenues for the local people.

The government says that the militants are criminals intent on stealing oil.

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