12th August, 2021
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered Shell Petroleum Company to pay within 21 days N45.9 billion to the people of Ogoni in Rivers State.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the order on Wednesday.
The money was the cost awarded against the company many years ago for oil spillage in Ogoniland.
Counsel to Shell Petroleum Company, Aham Ejelamo, informed the court that his client had agreed to make the payment.
He proposed that the money be paid through the Registrar of the court in a bank about to be opened for the purpose.
But Justice Mohammed ruled against the request and ordered that the payment be made within the period given through the account of the lawyer to the Ogoni people, Mr Lucius Nwosu.
He explained that this was in line with the decision of both the high court and the Supreme Court.
In November 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed an application by Shell Petroleum Development Company, asking it to review its judgment of Jan. 11, 2019 that ordered Shell to pay N17 billion to Ogoni communities in Rivers.
The communities were affected by an oil spill caused by the oil company in 1970.
A five-member panel of justices dismissed the application on the grounds that it had no merit since the court had taken a decision on the appeal and the court could not reverse itself.
The judgment prepared by Justice Centus Nweze and read by Justice Chukwudumebi Oseji on Friday in Abuja, held that the the application had no merit.
The Supreme Court had issued the N17 billion order in favour of Ejama-Ebubu in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers.
Counsel to the communities, Mr Lucius Nwosu told newsmen that the judgment sum, with interest accrued over the past 31 years was about N182 billion.
Nwosu had in September, at the hearing of the application, prayed the apex court to not only dismiss the application, but to also punish all the senior lawyers in Shell’s legal team for filing the judgment review application.
Nwosu said that the application was an attempt to ridicule the integrity and finality of the decisions of the apex court.
He further argued that the fresh appeal by Shell, which was filed seven months after the initial appeal was dismissed, was a calculated attempt to move the Supreme Court to sit on appeal over its final judgement.
Nwosu also told the apex court that the same Shell that was reluctant to pay damages to Nigerian victims of its oil spillage had in similar situations paid over 206 million dollars to victims in Mexico.
He said the previous litigation lasted over 30 years before the N17billion damages was awarded against Shell by the Court of Appeal.
One of the parties in the suit, a community leader, King George Osaro told newsmen that people of his community were overwhelmed with joy that the matter would finally be put to rest.
“We are really overwhelmed by the decision of the Supreme Court today because this will bring this whole Shell drama to an end.
“We feel vindicated from all the suffering the company has put us through. We advice Shell to retrace it’s steps and do what is right.”
The plight of Ogoni people over environmental pollution caused by Shell caught international attention following a massive public protest campaign against the company.
The campaign was led by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) – then led by Ken Saro Wiwa.
The case between the Ogoni people and shell has lasted for about 31 years.
A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court presided by Justice Ibrahim Buba awarded the cost against Shell Petroleum Company in a judgement delivered on June 14, 2010, for the sufferings inflicted on the people of Ogoniland.
After several years of legal tussle, the Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the lower court – but Shell Petroleum Company was not satisfied as it sought for some considerations.
When the matter came up on Wednesday, Justice Mohammed explained that it would amount to burying the judgement of the apex court to rule otherwise.
*With NAN and Channels TV