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Shell Reaches Settlement Over Oil Spills In Niger Delta

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

For decades, Western oil companies have been drilling in oil-rich Nigeria and, in the process, polluting both the water and the land. This morning, word comes of what is thought to be the biggest settlement ever with the community in Africa - Royal Dutch Shell offering compensation over oil spills that devastated fishing and agriculture in the Niger Delta. NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joined us for more. Good morning.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And, Ofeibea, give us firstly a thumbnail of what actually happened, the oil spill disaster that actually happened there.

QUIST-ARCTON: We are told that it's the worst oil spill ever suffered in Nigeria, and that was in 2008 in the Bodo community in the Niger Delta, Nigeria's oil-producing area. And we are told that these two oil spills destroyed thousands of acres, hectares of mangroves, of course the fish - fishing is the livelihood of the community. And Shell, we are told, first offered them a paltry, as they say, $10,000 - not even. Of course, the lawyers said no. The community said no because the environmental damage was so huge.

MONTAGNE: And that was $10,000 for the entire community. But what are they now settling on - quite a bit more money - right? - ad also to individuals affected by the spills?

QUIST-ARCTON: Considerably more, $83.5 million once they brought in lawyers from Britain, and this case has taken place in London. Up to $53 million is being given to 15,000 fishermen and farmers from the Bodo community, but they say that much more needs to be done to clean up. That is a priority. As well as the community in the Niger Delta, they feel that they have never benefited from oil. They need schools; they need hospitals; they need development.

MONTAGNE: So that cleanup you speak of that would affect, you know, the whole region, is that part of the settlement?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, this is an ongoing battle with Shell. This one is for these two oil spills. But, Renee, this case in London may open the gates to other communities in Nigeria's Niger Delta also saying to Shell, you have devastated our environment. We want you to compensate us and in a meaningful way.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.