New York, June 9: Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSA / RDSB; NYSE: RDS.A / RDS.B) agreed to shell out $15.5 million to settle several lawsuits that accused the oil giant of having been involved in the 1995 executions of author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other civilians by Nigeria's ex- military rule.
The Anglo-Dutch oil behemoth faced a lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act that allows noncitizens to file cases in U.S. courts for human rights abuses taking place in a foreign country.
In 1993, several civilians, led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, protested nonviolently and forced Shell to dump its oil fields in Ogoniland, a tiny part of the Niger Delta.
The protestors were seeking a better share of Nigeria's oil wealth for the poor. The environmental damage caused by the industry was also on the protestor’s agenda.
The lawsuits, filed more than a decade ago, sought unspecified damages from Shell for assisting the detention, tormenting and hanging of the protesters.
Shell denied charges
Shell maintained that it did not indulge in any unlawful activity and that the allegations against it were false.
Malcolm Brinded, Shell's executive director for exploration and production, said, “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."
He said of the money that the oil major has agreed to pay, “This gesture also acknowledges that, even though Shell had no part in the violence that took place, the plaintiffs and others have suffered.”
Meanwhile Paul Hoffman, a lawyer for the victims' families, said after the out-of-court settlement, “We litigated with Shell for 13 years and, at the end of the day, the plaintiffs are going to be compensated for the human rights violations they suffered.”
He disclosed that out of the total compensation received from Shell, an amount of $5 million would be kept in a trust for the welfare of the Ogoni people, the area that Ken Saro-Wiwa represented. The balance would be distributed as lawyers' charges and compensation for the aggrieved families.