Shell close to deal over 'ruinous' oil spill in Niger Delta

Five years after fishing and farming livelihoods were ruined, oil giant is ready to agree compensation which could reach £100m

For five years a London law firm and Anglo-Dutch oil giant have argued over reparations for one of the world's worst spills in Africa's oil heartland. But now, as fishing villages on the banks of the Niger Delta continue to count the cost of the leaks, compensation claims are finally due to be settled.

Royal Dutch Shell will tomorrow seek to reach an "acceptable agreement" with inhabitants of the cluster of Nigerian fishing villages over claims their livelihoods were ruined by the spills in 2008.

The compensation talks, which could reportedly cost Shell £100m, start in Port Harcourt – the capital of Nigeria's southern Rivers state and the centre of Africa's oil industry. Should a multimillion-pound settlement be reached, it could set a precedent for payouts in developing, but oil rich, nations.

Some 15,000 residents of the villages in the Bodo community are seeking compensation. The London law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the Nigerians, estimates that up to 600,000 barrels was spilled into the waters over 100 days.

Shell disputes that figure and the amount of damage caused, but admitted liability in 2011 for the spills. The oil firm estimates that 4,100 barrels were leaked.

According to the United Nations, the spill left at least 10 Ogoni communities with drinking water contaminated by "high levels of hydrocarbons" and the public health "seriously threatened". In Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, people were drinking water from wells contaminated with benzene at levels 900 times those of World Health Organisation guidelines.

"The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price," said Achim Steiner, the UN environment programme executive director, in 2011.

But two years after the UN said trust needed to be built and action taken to remedy the "multiple health and sustainable development issues", no agreement has been reached. Shell said there was a "very limited" chance of a resolution as recently as last month. But on Friday a spokesman was more positive. "We're hopeful that an acceptable agreement can be reached with the Bodo during next week's negotiations."

Leigh Day's position that "no clean-up work has begun" is disputed by Shell. According to Leigh Day, much of the oil that leaked into waterways around the Bodo and Niger Delta is yet to be cleared.

The Nigerians' lawyer, Martyn Day, last week described Shell's clean-up efforts as "pitiful". He said some 1,000 hectares of mangrove swamps were destroyed and another 5,000 hectares affected. Mr Day said: "We will be doing our damnedest to ensure Shell pays out a fair amount for the damage they have caused, and put the Bodo Creek back into its pre-spill state." He added: "It is entirely depressing that one of the largest companies in the world is acting like the playground bully, trying to batter local people, whose lives have been devastated, into submission."

Shell said it hoped a deal would be reached to provide "fair compensation, as well as a way forward on cleaning up the entire area affected by oil spills". The oil company, which described the 2008 spills as "highly regrettable" and blamed corrosion to a pipeline, said it sought "resolution, not recrimination" tomorrow.

The Nigerian environmentalist and activist Nnimmo Bassey welcomed the talks, but added that Shell needed to clean up the spill. "More important is a clean-up of the mess, the pollution, so that the fishermen and farmers can have their means of livelihood back," he said.

Suggested Topics
News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree is to be made into a series of films
film

Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree really is being made into a film

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Deputy Head of Science

£36000 - £60000 per annum: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client are a we...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London