Shell facilities have been attacked in the Niger Delta
A Nigerian court has ordered oil giant Shell's local operation 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
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
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.