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Conflict Mining/Resources, Environment, Niger Delta, Nigeria

Wiwa v Shell: $15.5 million settlement

The case has been settled out of court with $10 million going to the 10 plaintiffs and $5 million being gifted to the Ogoni people. Details of the settlement are here and here. Below is part of the statement from the lawyers in the case. I will be writing more on this in Pambazuka News later this week.

“The agreements reached today comprise one of a handful of successful settlements in corporate cases brought for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 statute that allows victims of human rights abuses from around the world to sue the perpetrators in U.S. courts. Since 1997, in Doe v. Unocal, the courts have made clear that multinational corporations can also be sued for human rights violations such as extrajudicial execution, torture and crimes against humanity, as charged in this case.

The settlement represents one more step towards holding corporations accountable for complicity in human rights violations, wherever they may be committed. We hope that this settlement provides another building block in the efforts to forge a legal system that holds violators accountable wherever they may be and prevents future violations. ”


  1. Royal Dutch Shell was acutely aware that they stood to lose if the case went to trial. Settling at this stage was a smart move on their part, insofar as embedded within the settlement is the acknowledgment by all parties that Shell is not guilty of wrongdoing. $15.5m is a huge amount to most, but not such an earth-shattering sum to a conglomerate as huge as Shell. Besides it definitely is the cheaper option for them.

    In my view, the Plaintiffs may have taken the money out of weariness over a matter that has dragged for a long time, 13 years to be precise. And they were wary of further legal proceedings, which were likely to be subject to a lengthy appeals process that potentially could last for several more years. And because justice delayed is justice denied, the prudent thing has been done by both sides.

  2. the prudent thing has been done by both sides sounded like, live to fight another day. The fight is not over as the myriad oil spills and fires in the region continue.

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    The proof will be in the pudding so to speak – will this change the attitudes of the multinationals in Nigeria – I very much doubt it. Will it change the Nigerian governments support of the multinationals – I doubt it.

  4. Youre right Sokari. What was achieved by this settlement is that Shell has managed to avoid a potentially embarrassing court case. But the settlement itself imposes no compulsion on Shell or any other multinational to change the way they operate. The recent events in the Delta only confirms that the Nigerian government continues to place its commercial self-interest (and indirectly the interests of the oil companies) above the well-being of the people of the Delta.

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    Anengiyefa@ I learned today that $15.5 million is equivalent to 5hrs earnings for Shell! I think that puts the figure in perspective and why on that basis there is no compulsion on Shell or others to make any change. However the negative publicity surrounding the settlement may influence their attitude towards Nigeria – but I am not that hopeful for the near future at least.