Some persons wonder why tongues are still wagging on the Bodo versus Shell pollution matter, years after both parties reached amicable settlement with compensation allegedly paid fully to beneficiaries.
It is, therefore, necessary to explain here that, no fewer than 14,000 of the supposedly beneficiaries subsequently raised an alarm, stating that they did not receive what should get to them in the payment and are desirous to know how the disbursement process was handled.
Those are feeds extracted from residents of Bodo community, Gokana Local Government Area who spoke on the lingering issues of the Bodo versus Shell pollution matter which judgment was given since 2012.
Explaining in-depth, a human rights activist and indigene of the community, Cyprus Brown, speaking the minds of many residents, believes that, from the initial time when payment was approved for them, and unjustifiably delayed through variously unregulated financial sources and or agents that were secretly invited midway into payment proceedings before the final release of fund to them smack suspicion that their entitlements might have been tampered with, contrary to terms in the Master Settlement Agreement, MSA.
Armed with both credible facts and dissatisfaction arising from the payment procedure, therefore, Brown has asked Leigh Day & Co. who was their solicitor in the case then, to furnish them with the necessary documents relating to disbursement of the £55million compensation paid by shell.
“The people want Leigh Day & Co. to remember that he was handsomely paid from the compensation for his services and had no reason not to release the document relating to the £55Million, five years after the completion of the transaction by Shell.
“The latest demand for documents by the community is made through Timothy Sapira in conjunction with a popular London-based legal firm, Samuel & Co, following perceived unreadiness by Leigh Day to react positively.
“The oil spill case was in 2012, compensation paid in 2015 after which residents began their demand for the relevant documents regarding total sum received and disbursed., alleging that they were still being owed about £30million”, he said.
While Shell and other agencies including banks involved in the dispute quickly stated their innocence and even tendered documents to solidify their position, Brown said that Leigh Day consistently refused to do so, thus prompting increased suspicion of foul play among agitators.
However, in what appears like a bid to shrug off some pressure on the issue, he added that Leigh Day, through a spokesperson, Caroline Invenson, recently reacted, describing the allegations against him as false.
“The statement which was made available to us claimed that Leigh Day disbursed all monies that went through him in the Bodo/Shell case appropriately, adding that Leigh Day was already in an unnamed court on the matter. The spokesperson, however, failed to say why Leigh Day refused to release the needed documents, an act seen as contrary to both local and international norm”, he said.
According to him, in a quick response, the bewildered community claimants and their representatives in Nigeria, Timothy Sapira and London-based solicitors, Samuel & Co told Leigh Day said they had neither instituted nor received any form of service for judicial proceeding on the matter.
“Sapira, an internationally respected banking cum financial expert maintained that, his clients were yet to consider judicial adjudication, neither do they also see it as an option in the nearest future other than merely asking Leigh Day to provide documents relating to disbursement of the fund which, to them, does not require judicial interpretation, provided they were sincerely handled”, Brown said.
When contacted on the issue, a veteran journalist and public affairs commentator, Comrade Alloy Khenom blamed Mr. Martyn Day for allowing the matter to drag on till today.
Comrade Khenom pointed out that the British solicitor, Mr. Martyn Day is well known in public circle and should know when those he serves raise objection on an issue and quickly meet them for a jaw-jaw, rather than allowing progression into public hullabaloo.
He advised Martyn Day to immediately apply his avowed social and legal dexterity to assemble the deprived and humble Ogonis on a round table. for amicable end to the palaver.
The veteran journalist commended representatives of the claimants for refusing to be cowed by detractors and extended the same applauses to the Bodo Council of Chiefs and Elders, youths and women for showing support and understanding.