Ijaw leaders in Nigeria havethreatened to attack installations of Shell Petroleum Development Company ofNigeria Limited (SPDC) if the oil company fails to pay a court-ordered $1.5billion compensation to Aborigines for a 1994 oil spill. The elders, who said they were running out of patience, gave the oil giant uptill the end of April to pay up or “be prepared to kill more of us.”
The leaders handed the threat todayin Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, at a solemn ceremony marking the 17thanniversary of the spill which they claimed resulted in the death of 1417Aborigines.
National chairman, Association ofCommunity Leaders, oil producing states, Frank Oputu, accused Shell of hidingbehind what he said were legal pillars “to buy time,” but warned thatsuch could only result in dire consequences for the company.
He warned: “Mark my words, ifShell does not pay this money by the end of next month (April), we shall embarkon actions that would not be pleasing to them.
“Shell has put us in a veryunpleasant situation. And this may make us do things that would make the worldcall us bad people, who are restive and do not want development.”
Oputu recalled that the NationalAssembly had in a 2004 resolution ordered SDPC to pay $1.5 billion ascompensation, and that a Federal High Court had affirmed it.
Eight years after the resolution,lamented Oputu, “Shell has continued to disrespect the National Assemblyand hold our courts in contempt.” He described the situation as”totally unacceptable.”
He appealed to the federalgovernment to avert what he said was an impending security crisis by impressingit upon SPDC to “stop all these legal rigmarole and pay up the poorrelatives of the 1417 men, women and children who lost their lives as a resultof Shell’s negligence.”
The National Assembly had on theheels of a public hearing, in 2003, ordered SPDC to pay Ijaw Aborigines $1.5billion as compensation for the oil spill.
Following the oil giant’s refusal topay, the Aborigines approached a Federal High Court, which ruled that sinceSPDC agreed to appear before the National Assembly, its resolution was binding.
The court ordered SPDC to pay the$1.5 billion into its account at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Dissatisfied with the order, SPDC proceeded to a Court of Appeal which grantedthe company a stay of execution.
Ijaw Aborigines, under theleadership of a prominent politician, Chief Pere Ajuwa, headed for the SupremeCourt. The Supreme Court has ordered both parties back to the Court of Appealto argue the substantive appeal.