The Central Bank of Nigeria has been ordered to pay a judgment sum and interest of N182.7bn to Ogoni community from the account of First Bank of Nigeria, according to a judgement by the Federal High Court in Abuja. READ ALSO: NOVA Merchant Bank Limited Declares N1.65bn In PAT
Shell Petroleum Development Company, whose activities in the oil-rich region caused damage to the community as a result of oil spillage, has its account managed by the First Bank of Nigeria.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who presided over the case, ordered the CBN to deduct the sum from the First Bank of Nigeria’s account and pay the people of Ejama Community in the Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Justice Ekwo held that the Order Absolute was made upon the Order Nisi made on June 3, 2019, compelling the CBN to pay the judgment creditors monies belonging to the guarantor- First Bank of Nigeria Limited.
He said the ruling was in satisfaction of the judgment debt in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/231/2001 (later renumbered Suit No. FHC/ASB/ CS/57/2010): Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara and five others vs CBN and two others as well as Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/562/19 2/: Agbara and two others, vs the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited and others.
The ruling read in part: “The guarantor/surety/debtor secured and guaranteed to pay the judgment creditors special damages; and interest for delayed payment for five years from 1996 at 25 per cent per annum i.e. 25 per cent of the said sum till the date of judgment; N10bn as general damages; and 10 per cent interest on the judgment debt till payment giving a total of N76,871,175,831.18 as at June 14, 2010, being the date of the judgment but with the accrual of post judgment interest totalled N182.768,696,651.89.”
Starting in 1991, the case between the oil company and the community was originally instituted at the Rivers State High Court, Nchia Division, by six indigenes of Ogoniland against the Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Netherlands, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, United Kingdom, and SPDC over alleged oil spills that occurred when Shell performed it operations in the community.
The case, it was alleged, claimed the life of Human Rights activist, late Ken Saro Wiwa, who led the Ogoni struggle during the military administration of late General Sani Abacha.
Judgment was, however, delivered in favour of the Ogoni community by the state High Court, with the defendant launching an appeal against the ruling of the court.
In 2001, some representatives of the Ogoni people filed a fresh suit at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt which was presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba. They claimed N17bn and interests on the said sum for the losses allegedly caused by the oil spills.
Justice Buba in his judgment in 2010 awarded the sum to the plaintiffs, just as the court equally granted the Ogoni chiefs 25 per cent interest charge on the principal sum of about N17bn.
The judgment was appealed by SPDC and applied for a stay of execution pending the appeal. The court, in the meantime, asked Shell’s bankers, First Bank, to provide a guarantee of the judgment sum as a condition for granting it; a condition that was complied with.
But Shell’s appeal failed at the Court of Appeal on technical grounds.