By Adewale Sanyaolu
Federal High Court Lagos has granted an interim Mareva injunction directing 20 commercial banks to block accounts of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and its affiliate companies.
However, at the sitting on Monday, the court delisted six of the 20 banks for not having any dealings with Shell.
The blockade, according to the injunction, a copy in possession of Daily Sun, was aimed at recovering the cash value of more than 16 million barrels of crude unaccounted for by the super oil major AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited.
AITEO in the lawsuit is claiming a loss of over 16 million barrels of crude to Shell from oil injected into the Bonny Terminal since March 2015 when it acquired OML 29 from SPDC.
But when contacted, a Shell spokesperson, Bamidele Odugbesan said because the matter of interim mareva injunction is in court, he would refrain from commenting on it. However, in a separate e-mail response to Daily Sun inquiry, he said allegations that SPDC would under-report its crude oil production are malicious and factually incorrect.
He added that crude oil production metering and allocation are subject to specific guidelines issued by the industry regulator, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
‘‘SPDC strictly adheres to these guidelines and the application and implementation of these guidelines is regularly verified by the regulator. The DPR has also dismissed the allegation as untrue.’’
The SPDC and all Shell companies in Nigeria conduct their operations in accordance with applicable laws and industry best practices.
In giving the order, Justice Oluremi Omowunmi Oguntoyinbo, in a suit no FHC/L/CS/52/2021, directed the banks where the Shell companies operate accounts in Nigeria to “ring-fence any cash, bonds, deposits, all forms of negotiable instruments to the value of $2.7 billion and pay all standing credits to the Shell companies up to the value into an interest yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the court, who is to hold the funds in trust” pending the hearing of the motion and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed before it by AITEO.
AITEO, alongside some other indigenous oil producers, have had a protracted dispute with Shell, alleging that the company shortchanged them using the unapproved methodology to calculate the volume of crude it lifts on their behalf from the terminal.
They jointly alleged that Shell deploys underhand practices including using unapproved meters to calculate crude oil production.
Following an investigation into the dispute by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Shell had in a letter to the agency, admitted that it had indeed installed unapproved metering systems and agreed to refund more than 2 million barrels of crude it had illegally taken from the producers (Belema Oil, AITEO, Eroton and NewCross) between 2016 and 2018.