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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 20:07 GMT
Shell told to pay Nigeria's Ijaw
Shell platform in Odidi, Niger Delta
Shell facilities have been attacked in the Niger Delta
A Nigerian court has ordered oil giant Shell and its partners to pay $1.5bn to the Ijaw people of the Delta region.

The Ijaw have been fighting since 2000 for compensation for environmental degradation in the oil-rich region.

They took the case to court after Shell refused to make the payment ordered by Nigeria's parliament.

Ijaw militants have staged a spate of attacks against Shell facilities recently and are holding seven foreign oil workers hostage.

Following the violence, Shell - the biggest oil producer in Nigeria - has halved its output from the country.

Shell says it believes there is no evidence to support the claim, and will appeal against the ruling.

A statement said: "We remain committed to dialogue with the Ijaw people."


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 did not have the power to compel the oil company to make the payment.

But Judge Okechukwu Okeke ruled that since both sides had agreed to go before the National Assembly, the order was binding on both sides.

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.

He did not elaborate on how the community would stop Shell's operations.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in Port Harcourt says the case has the support both of community elders and the militant groups that have been attacking oil installations in the Delta region.

But our correspondent warns that even if the money is paid, the region would not necessarily be pacified unless the various groups were happy with how it was distributed.

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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