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Nigerian researcher key to landmark $83 million Shell oil spill settlement to speak at IUPUI

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INDIANAPOLIS — In an out-of-court settlement reached earlier this year, Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria agreed to an $83.4 million (55 million pounds) compensation package for Bodo, a Nigerian farming and fishing community damaged by massive oil spills in 2008 and 2009. The Bodo case is the first major legal settlement where compensation has been paid directly to individual Africans and not just done through chiefs or community leaders.

This afternoon, a researcher whose data contributed to the winning of the case will speak at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The Department of Political Science and the Program for Global and International Studies, both part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, will present “Q&A with Nenibarini Zabbey” from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. in Room 508 of Cavanaugh Hall, 425 University Blvd., on the IUPUI campus.

Zabbey is the coordinator of the Center for the Environment, Human Rights and Development, a leading Nigerian human-rights organization that works throughout the oil-producing Niger Delta. He earned a doctorate in hydrobiology and fisheries from the University of Port Harcourt (Choba, River States, Nigeria) in 2004. In the Bodo case, his doctoral dissertation provided much of the baseline data on benthic ecology and aquatic systems in Bodo Creek.

IUPUI political science professor Scott Pegg was among the witnesses for the residents of Bodo in the three-year legal battle.

Pegg, chair of the Department of Political Science in the School of Liberal Arts, has been actively involved in the life of Bodo for more than 14 years. His written testimony in the Shell case, filed in the case before the High Court in London, used numerous pictures to document the story of Bodo’s transformation after the oil spills from a vibrant fishing community to a land of “environmental devastation as far as the eye could see.”

Of particular interest to the British lawyers representing the Bodo claimants were the many photographs Pegg had from visits to Bodo before the 2008-09 spills. Pegg and his traveling companions often would go down to the waterfront and paddle out into Bodo Creek on a traditional fishing canoe for recreation. Pegg said he never envisioned that his “tourist photos” of the waterfront would actually be used to help document how green and verdant the mangrove forests in Bodo were before the oil spills.

In 2000, Pegg and his wife, Tijen Demirel-Pegg, then newlyweds, donated $2,800 of their wedding-gift money to the Bebor Model Nursery and Primary School in Botor Village, Bodo. The money allowed the school to finish a roofing project and funded a cement floor for a five-classroom primary school building that now serves more than 300 children.

The couple’s continued work for the school is now incorporated into the Indianapolis-based charity known as Timmy Global Health. Projects in the Bodo school include providing boreholes for drinking water; boys’, girls’ and teachers’ toilets for better sanitation; and a pilot health program providing immunizations, health exams and deworming treatments to students at the school.

According to a statement about the settlement released by Leigh Day, the London-based law firm representing the community of Bodo, 15,600 individual claimants were awarded a total of 35 million pounds, with the remainder of the settlement going to the Bodo community as a whole. Shell also agreed to clean up Bodo Creek.


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