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Oil Company Pays for Pollution in Nigeria



Two oil spills -- one in 2008 and another in 2009 -- polluted waters near the town of Bodo, in southern Nigeria. A legal settlement provided money to townspeople. The Shell oil company and the affected community successfully negotiated the agreement in January. But the payments did not undo the environmental damage to the area around Bodo. And people in the town are worried about their future.

The oil spills polluted the waterways of this community with thousands of barrels of crude oil. The townspeople in Bodo depend heavily on fishing for the money they earn. The town said a Shell-owned business operating in Nigeria was responsible for the pollution. Bodo took legal action against the company in Britain. Earlier this year, Shell agreed to pay about $3,000 to each of the more than 15,000 people in the town.

Sylvester Kogbara is the high chief of the community. He says money cannot make up for a way of life that he says was destroyed.

“It is not enough, and it can never be enough. I have mentioned it here. They can’t pay enough.”

Giadon Aagbara Timothy is a local fisherman. He is using his money from the settlement to build a brick house to replace the mud home his family now lives in. But he says there is still a lot of oil in the waters around Bodo, and the fish are either dead or too polluted to eat. He is worried about the future.

“We now live with no choice than being in that abject poverty. That, where we cannot go fishing, we cannot go anywhere to get anything to help ourselves.”

People can still buy fish at the market in Bodo. But the fish were not caught locally. They are imported from places where the water is cleaner.

Some townspeople are still fishing. Marvelous Bonny bought a new fishing boat with the settlement money. He now travels far from Bodo to catch the croaker and salt-water fish that remain popular in its markets.

“Because I have my boat, my engine and my boys. You can see now, this is one of the boats I just cut (made) newly, this very one, and I bought an engine -- 15 horsepower -- for the business. And this is my fiber. I used to do business, transporting people to the other community. And the money is not enough to empower me enough to do such business.”

Shell has agreed to help clean up the oil that spilled around Bodo. Townspeople say their lives will return to normal only when the community’s waters are clean.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Reporter Chris Stein reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

spill – n. an accidental release of liquid or fluid

abject – adj. extremely bad or severe

townspeople – n. people living in a town or small community

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