-Ben Amunwa is a campaigner with oil industry watchdog Platform, where he runs Remember Saro-Wiwa, a project that uses art and activism to raise awareness about the impact of the oil in the Niger Delta. The opinions expressed are his own.-
When the news broke of a settlement in the Wiwa v Shell case, a cacophony of responses soon flooded my inbox. Hailed as a victory for human rights by some, others felt disappointed that Shell could throw money in the face of justice. In such a high profile and emotive legal battle, holding oil giant Shell responsible for human rights abuses in Nigeria, including the execution of charismatic activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, hopes were inevitably high.
A settlement was always going to stir some controversy. Activists wanted to see Shell on trial for aiding and abetting the Nigerian military in crackdowns on the Ogoni people in the 1990s. Myself and many others travelled to New York expecting a trial, but came home empty-handed. Yet none of us had spent hours locked in settlement negotiations, nor lived with the burden of a 12-year litigation, not to mention the personal trauma of losing our loved ones to brutal violence. There is a growing consensus that the settlement is a victory in favor of the plaintiffs, and a step forward on the long road to corporate accountability.
Eager to flex its public-relations muscles, Shell claimed they agreed to a settlement for "compassionate" reasons. A statement on Tuesday said:
“Shell today agreed to settle a court case in New York related to allegations in connection with the Nigerian military government's execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995, making a humanitarian gesture to set up a trust fund to benefit the Ogoni people…Shell has always maintained the allegations were false… we were prepared to go to court to clear our name.”