[JURIST] A Nigerian court in the southern city of Port Harcourt Friday ordered Royal Dutch Shell [corporate website] to pay $1.5 billion to compensate local communities for environmental pollution caused by the company's activities in the southern Niger delta region, the focus of long criticism [CorpWatch backgrounder; HRW report] by environment and rights groups. Shell's oil production activities make up nearly half of Nigeria's oil exports. The Niger delta region is largely populated by the Ijaw [Wikipedia nackgrounder]; the militant Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) [BBC profile] has been engaged in an ongoing conflict with Shell Oil and the Nigerian government for more local control of the delta's rich oil resources.
Shell stated that it could not comment on Friday's ruling because it had not yet seen the text of the opinion; however, a spokesperson said that there were "strong grounds to appeal" the decision, based on the advice of an independent expert that contends that the evidence did not support the court's decision. AP has more.