Except urgent steps are taken, Nigeria may record a major revenue loss in the oil sector following a 2008 Rivers State High Court judgment asking Shell to forfeit the land where the Bonny crude oil terminal is located.
Should the 2008 judgment by Justice Margaret Opara of the Rivers State High Court be enforced, the country’s economy may take a turn for the worse as oil accounts for over 70 percent of revenue for the Federal Government.
And to further show its displeasure towards Shell for failing to honour the 2008 judgment, A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had on Tuesday sentenced the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mr. Osagie Okunbor, and two others, to three-month imprisonment with hard labour.
Okunbor was sentenced alongside Shell’s Secretary and Head of Legal, Nike Oyinlola, and the Deputy Country Head of Legal/ Managing Counsel Global Litigation sub-Saharan Africa, Keibi Atemie.
Justice George Omereji, in his judgement in suit No: PHC/1929/2018, said the land where the Bonny crude oil terminal is located belongs to the Jumbo Major House and the Brown House of Finima, both in Bonny, Rivers State.
The above-mentioned families who are Shell’s landlord in Bonny, had gone to court in suit no: PHC/1956/2007, over the tenancy and compensation for the land under which the then military government of Rivers State had issued a certificate of occupancy to Shell.
Opara then ordered that Shell should forfeit the Bonny terminal for breach of terms of its tenancy by going behind the landlords to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the government of Rivers State for the land.
But, SPDC in a statement made available to Daily Sun, said it has challenged the committal order of a High Court of Rivers State on Tuesday sentencing Okunbor, and two other senior officers of the company to prison for three months for disobeying a court order.
“We do not accept that SPDC has disobeyed any lawful court order and we have accordingly appealed this judgement,” the company’s spokesperson, Bamidele Odugbesan, said in a statement on Tuesday, adding: “SPDC has utmost respect for the courts and the laws of Nigeria.”
Some members of Bonny Community in Rivers State had asked the court, presided over by Justice George Omeriji, to commit the SPDC officers to prison for disobeying a High Court order of 2008 asking the company to forfeit the land where one of Nigeria’s biggest oil terminals, Bonny Oil Terminal, is located.
“We have appealed against the order and applied to suspend its execution pending the outcome of the appeal,” the SPDC spokesperson said.
Odugbesan explained that the said 2008 judgment was settled between SPDC and the landlord families of the land in 2014.
“An amicable resolution and settlement agreement was signed by the parties in 2014 after which SPDC paid all the rents due on the land up to 2019,” he said.
He cited a paid public notice by the landlord families in the October 24, 2014 edition of the Guardian newspaper acknowledging the settlement with SPDC.
The Bonny Oil Terminal is a critical national asset in which the Federal Government has 55 per cent interest.
It receives crude oil from international and local oil companies through the Trans Niger Pipeline and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line for export.