Oct 27, 2011

Ogoni: King Files Law Suit Against Shell

Ogoni Tribal King Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi is suing Shell for $1 billion through the Michigan federal court in Detroit so as to accrue the compensation of nearly 50 years of pollution.

Below is an article published by Discovery News:

The US Supreme Court plans to consider the lawsuit in what the AFP called "a landmark case that could make companies liable for torture or genocide committed overseas."

King Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi of the Ogoni and four other tribal leaders seek compensation for half a century of pollution from oil extraction and processing that has sickened people and poisoned the land and drinking water.

The civil complaint states that the Nsisioken Ogale community is "exposed to hydrocarbons every day through multiple routes" such as frequent oil spills and pervasive air pollution from refining operations, reported the AFP.

"At all times relevant to this litigation, Defendants knew or should have known that the crude oil contains chemicals hazardous to human health and to the environment and ecosystems," the complaint said.

The AFP noted that the king also accused Shell of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, gross negligence and the violation of international treaties and obligations to the United States and Nigeria.

Along with $1 billion in damages, the lawsuit seeks immediate cleanup of the pollution and an injunction to require air and water monitoring.

The Nigerian plaintiffs filed the suit in a US court because of what they called a historical "culture of impunity" for Shell in Nigeria and "disregard" for the Nigerian judicial process, reported the AFP.

For example, the plaintiffs claim Shell has yet to pay $1.5 billion in pollution damages to the Ijaw Aborigines, or to comply with a 2005 order to end gas flaring in the Iwherekan community.

King Okpabi's civil complaint relies on the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, a law designed to assure foreign governments that the U.S. would uphold international law.

Royal Dutch Shell has a notorious history with the Ogoni People, that escalated during a murder case in 1995 when a Nigerian court ordered the hanging of Kenule "Ken" Beeson Saro-Wiwa along with eight other cultural rights activists.

Saro-Wiwa was accused of the involvement in the murder of four Ogoni leaders though he himself had led a non-violent campaign by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and was not present in Ogoniland on the day of the slayings.

“At least two witnesses who claimed that Saro-Wiwa was involved in the murders of the Ogoni elders have recanted and were set to testify that they had been bribed with money and offers of jobs with Shell to give false testimony, all in the presence of Shell’s lawyer,” reported NGO Watch.

International outrage erupted after Saro-Wiwa's execution, and resulted in Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.

In 2009, Royal Dutch Shell reached an out-of-court agreement to pay a $15.5 million settlement to Saro-Wiwa's family and other plaintiffs, reported the New York Times. The settlement was in response to allegations of liability for human rights violations in Nigeria, including Saro-Wiwa's execution.