by Nnamdi Ikeagu
The major oil company, Shell reached an out of court settlement to pay £55m (N15.7bn) to the 15,600 fishermen of Bodo community, Rivers state. This was in a bid by Shell to avoid a full trial after three years of pre-trial legal tussles.
There had been two oil spills on the Bodo creek in 2008/2009. Shell claimed that only 4,144 barrels leaked. This was a blatant lie as further evidence confirmed. It was around 600,000 barrels.
The creek, rivers and streams in the area have been severely polluted. This resulted in the destruction of the ecosystem and the livelihoods of the fishing population. From the settlement, each member of the community is to receive about N600,000 and the balance is to be used for building schools and hospitals for the community.
But, as Nnimmo Bassey of the Health of Mother Health Foundation (HOMEF) notes, this “can hardly purchase a good fishing boat and equipment necessary to return to the fishing business that the people know best”. He also observed that the Goi community whose waters were also polluted by the incident have been abandoned to their own fate.
Amnesty International described the settlement as an “important victory for the victims of corporate negligence”. But negligence is just part of a bigger picture. The international oil companies are concerned simply with production for profit as with other capitalist firms. Where they can get away with not strictly following procedures they do. And whenever there are operational failures, we see the machinery of the bosses moving in to cover up with lies and distortion of their folly. This is what Shell attempted to do at first.
This victory is welcomed by the Socialist Workers League. We also call for action to be taken to remedy the situation with the Goi. Poor working people and their allies must explore every avenue, including courts, to seek justice. But our ultimate strength lies in our solidarity. And the mist important victory we will win is power from the bosses, through our revolution from below.