Concerns are developing over growing incidences of oil spills in the Niger Delta area, as well as the N800 billion court verdict between Shell Nigeria and local communities in the region, as international oil companies (IOCs) intend to exit from Nigeria.
According to stakeholders, poor infrastructure, particularly pipelines, has resulted in the spillage of 14 million litres of crude oil worth N2.8 billion in less than three years, as well as cascading environmental dangers and health burdens, leading to an increase in infant mortality and cancer cases.
In reality, new intrigues are surfacing ahead of the court’s decision in January on Shell Nigeria’s destiny in the N800 billion damages granted by the Federal High Court in Owerri for the 2019 leak in River State’s Eleme villages.
In Nigeria’s unpredictable oil business, the verdict is nearly out on the largest dispute award ever.
But industry watchers are waiting to see if Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Limited, along with its two parent companies in the United Kingdom and The Hague, Netherlands, can clear itself of blame in a historic dispute debt awarded against it in a spill that occurred on swamp farmlands in Egbalor, Ebubu in Rivers State’s Eleme Local Government Area.
Shell is attempting to persuade a court at the Court of Appeal not to pay damages to 88 people who received a judgment in November 2020 from a Federal High Court in Owerri for spills on their fishing facilities in Ejalawa village, Oken-Ogogu swamp farmlands.
Last year, T.G. Ringim, a judge of the Federal High Court in Owerri, Imo State, ruled that Shell Nigeria, Shell International Exploration and Production BV (SIE&P), and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were all responsible for the leak.
Isaac Torchi and 87 residents of the Ejalawa village had filed a lawsuit against SPDC, SIE&P BV, and NNPC in January 2020, alleging that an oil leak had ruined their environment and livelihoods, namely fishing and agriculture.
After 31 years of legal wrangling, the Anglo-Dutch oil company ultimately agreed to pay N45.7 billion to the Ejama-Ebubu community in August of this year. The hearing date for the oil company’s application has been set for January 25, 2022.
On that date, the appellate court would also hear all other pending applications, including one filed by the plaintiffs/respondents seeking an order of the court directing Shell to deposit the judgment sum with the court as a condition of hearing the application for stay, and another case seeking to set aside Shell’s notice of appeal on the grounds that it is incompetent and an abuse of court process.
Most stakeholders believe that because oil companies are already divesting their assets from the country, they should be forced to rectify years of environmental degradation; otherwise, indigenous firms planning to take over the assets or the Federal Government would be forced to clear the Augean stable.