A Nigerian court has ordered oil giant Shell's local operation to pay $1.5bn to the Ijaw people of the Delta region, who have been fighting since 2000 for compensation for environmental degradation in the oilrich region. They took the case to court after Shell refused to make the payment ordered by Nigeria's parliament in 2000.
Ijaw militants have staged a spate of attacks against Shell facilities recently and are now holding seven foreign oil workers hostage.
Following the violence, Shell – the biggest oil producer in Nigeria – has halved its output from the country.
Lawyers for the Shell Petroleum Development Company argued in the federal court in Port Harcourt that the joint committee of the National Assembly that made the order in 2000 didn’t have the authority to compel the oil company to make such a payment.
But the Judge, Okechukwu Okeke, ruled that since both sides had agreed to go before the National Assembly, the order was binding.
Ijaw community leader, Ngo Nac- Eteli, said that if Shell wanted to buy time by taking the case to the appeal court, the company would not be allowed to operate on Ijaw land until the case was settled.
Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil exporters but despite its oil wealth, many Nigerians live in abject poverty.
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