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Shell moves to appeal court ruling to cede asset sale to Rivers State

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OIL giant, Shell has hinted about its moves to appeal the judgement of the Rivers State High Court that granted the oil stakes of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Joint Venture interests in Kidney Island and OML 11 to the Rivers State Government.

Bamidele Odugbesan, the spokesperson of the oil firm, said the company was dissatisfied with the ruling of the court and would file an appeal and an application for a stay of execution of the judgment.

“The fact that in the underlying judgement (Chief Agbara and Others v. SPDC, which is being enforced by the sale, have themselves accepted in the High Court in England that the judgement was “miscalculated” and “materially overstated,” Odugbesan said in a statement.

“SPDC has therefore filed an appeal and an application for a stay of execution of this recent judgment issued by the Rivers State High Court.”

The court case dates back to an oil spill caused by third parties during the Nigerian Civil War, which resulted in significant damage to oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta region.

In 2001, the affected community Ejama Ebubu made claims for N17 billion damages against SPDC at the Federal High Court Abuja since the spill in the community was from SPDC’s installation in the community in 2010.

The court gave judgment against SPDC and awarded the community the claim.

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The SPDC, however, appealed the 2010 judgment and obtained an order to stay the execution of the judgment upon the provision of a bank guarantee issued by First Bank of Nigeria Limited in favour of the claimants.

Despite this matter being the subject of ongoing proceedings in the Nigerian courts according to the SPDC, the claimants went ahead to seek to enforce the judgment in both Nigeria and England courts.

“The English court last year rejected the claimants’ attempt to enforce the Nigerian court judgment in the UK, referring to a ‘breach of natural justice’ in the proceedings against Shell in Nigeria. The English court also found that the claimants had “materially overstated,” Odugbesan said.

The court ruled that it would not be just and convenient for a Nigerian judgment to be enforced in the UK which the claimants acknowledge is “miscalculated”

Also, the Rivers State Government had “filed a similar case at the Federal High Court Abuja, asking the  court  to direct the Minister of Petroleum Resources to transfer SPDC’s asset in Ejama Ebubu acquired through an auction sale.

The Rivers State Government withdrew the case in Abuja in July and refiled a new case at the Rivers State High Court without joining the Minister of Petroleum Resources before it was granted judgement.

“SPDC and other parties affected by the March 2, 2020 order of the Federal High Court filed separate appeals, as well as applied to set aside the order and restrain its execution pending the appeal decision.

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“We remain of the view that until the pending appeals are heard and determined, SPDC is not liable to make any payments, and therefore none any of its assets or interest should not be attached to satisfy the judgement,” he said.

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Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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