Supreme Court’s affirmation of Rivers State Government’s acquisition of 45 per
cent equity stake in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 and Kidney Island in Port
Harcourt has brought smiles on the faces of officials of the state government.
The Rivers State Government acquisition of OML 11 and Kidney Island was affirmed by the apex court, last Friday, when it dismissed the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s suit, which sought to set aside the N17billion judgment made against it in 2019.
It would be recalled that the Supreme Court had in January, 2019, upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which awarded N17billion damages against the company for a devastating oil spill that ravaged farmlands, rivers and streams in Ejama-Ebubu in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State decades ago.
Shell, which was the operator of OML 11 in Ogoniland, and Kidney Island in Port Harcourt, had in July, 2019, filed a suit at the Supreme Court to set aside its earlier judgment on the ground that the apex court did not go into the merit of their appeal before upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal.
But, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment prepared by Justice Centus Nweze, and delivered by Justice Samuel Oseji, asserted that the appeal filed by Shell was frivolous and lacks merit.
Justice Oseji declared that the Supreme Court cannot revisit its earlier decision on the matter.
To this end, the court dismissed Shell’s appeal for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
In addition, the Supreme Court held that parties were to bear the cost of their litigation.
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had in September, last year, announced the acquisition of Shell’s 45 per cent interest in OML 11 oilfields and Kidney Island in the state.
The governor had directed the Rivers State Ministry of Finance Incorporated to make a bid of $150,000,0900.00 supported by a Bank Guarantee and cash payment to the Deputy Sheriff in the sum of N1billion, the later payable to the Judgement Creditors while the former is domiciled in an escrow account.
The Ejama community had filed a suit against Shell over un-remediated pollution that took place since 1970 as admitted by SPDC vide letters they wrote seeking to clean-up the spill in 2006 while the case was at the trial court.
The suit between Shell and Ejama-Ebubu community was finally disposed of in 2017.
But, SPDC and its parent companies, took out a further appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2017, which appeal was considered and dismissed by that court in a judgment read by Hon. Justice B. Akaahs.
After losing at the High Court, Shell gave the successful Ejama-Ebubu Plaintiffs a Bond Guarantee stipulating that First Bank of Nigeria Limited would pay them the value of the Judgment debt and interests thereon in the event that SPDC’s appeal to the Court of Appeal failed at that court.
Having lost the matter at the Court of Appeal, the Ejama-Ebubu community commenced enforcement by domiciling the judgment in the state High Court, and levying execution on SPDC movables in their Industrial Area in Port Harcourt.
Shell, had invited the community and offered them N7billion as against the judgment debt of N194billion, which the community refused to accept.
Afterwards, the community approached the court for an order granting them leave to sell SPDC’s immovable property comprised in OML 11 and their Kidney Island support base in Port Harcourt.
It was on this basis that the Rivers State Government placed advertisement of the said immovable assets for auction after the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Rivers State alerted the government of the state of the matter.
Wike, had said that rather than standby and watch other persons or groups purchase Shell’s 45 per cent interest in OML 11, and further exacerbate the poverty of the people of the State, the state government had to weigh in and bid for the purchase of SPDC interest already set down for auction.
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