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Shell’s Nigerian Settlement



Published: June 28, 2009

In the editorial “Ending a Shell Game” (June 24) you argue that Shell’s out-of-court settlement with Nigerian plaintiffs in Manhattan earlier this month saved “costly embarrassment” and the public airing of evidence of collusion and human rights abuses by the company in Nigeria. We see the matter differently.

We knew the charges against us were not true. And we were confident that the evidence would have shown this — that Shell was not responsible for the tragic events of Nov. 10, 1995. The execution of nine leaders of the Ogoni people shocked us all. And we wanted others to see and understand that.

I am aware that the settlement may have suggested that Shell was guilty and trying to escape justice. The article certainly implies that. But this 13-year-old lawsuit has always been a bitter legacy in any reconciliation initiative among the Ogoni people themselves, who remain divided by the violence of those times that went far beyond the deaths of the four respected Ogoni chiefs, whose murders sparked the 1995 trial.

So when the judge, through the court mediation process, asked us to consider making a humanitarian gesture to settle the case, we saw an opportunity to help banish this legacy, advance the process of reconciliation and support a better future for Ogonis — in a way that us winning in court may not have done.

Shell is looking for peace. We live and work in the Niger Delta where 25,000 families depend on our operations for their livelihoods — and where we want good relations with all our neighbors.

The creation of an independent trust fund as part of the settlement will contribute to development in Ogoni land. It is independent of Shell and the plaintiffs. I believe it can make a difference where it matters most.

This was not about Shell, or the lawyers, winning or losing. Our decision was aimed at helping different factions to talk more effectively to one another and to Shell — and to help move along the vital reconciliation process, a fact lost in some of the commentary since the settlement was reached.

Malcolm Brinded, The Hague, executive director, Royal Dutch Shell

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