JOE EFFIONG, UYO
The jubilation that greeted the federal high court Abuja judgment that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its joint venture partner, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited should pay Ibeno community in Akwa Ibom State the sum of N81.9 billion as accumulative damages over oil spillage may soon turn into anguish is the ruling is not obeyed.
The federal high court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo had on Monday, June 21, 2021 asked NNPC and its joint venture partners, Mobil, to pay the plaintiff, being Ibeno community the said sum within 14 days else the amount would attract 8% per annum.
While expressing appreciation to the court on their victory in the case instituted since 2012 within which five of those representing Ibeno as plaintiffs had died, the community said the judgment had justified their pursuits for justice and fairness, stating that by that landmark judgment, the judiciary in Nigeria has re-enacted public trust as being the last hope of the common man as well as for those who pursue their rights legally.
The Ibeno Community therefore urged NNPC and Mobil to honour the court judgment by paying them the said sum of N81.9 billion within the 14 days as ordered by the court without delay to minimize their perennial frustration on the oil spill issue.
Speaking at an emergency town hall meeting with stakeholders of Ibeno Community in his, the paramount ruler of Ibeno Local Government Areas, HRM Owong Effiong Bassey Archianga, said over the years, “multinational oil exploration and production companies have been in conflicts with host communities over oil spillages and with consequences of environmental degradation, negative socio-economic impacts, health hazards coupled with pollution of our ecosystem which affects our occupation as fishermen and farmers.”
The traditional ruler, who is Immediate Past National President, Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) said his people were very grateful to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Federal Minister of Justice & Attorney General and members of the Jury in the Nigerian Judiciary, for standing by Ibeno people for the past nine years during their legal battle with the multinational oil companies (Mobil), operating in our communities over oil exploitation, oppression and denial of our rights.
In a press release personally signed by him, and made available to Daily Sun on Monday, the royal father said; “It is against this background that the entire people of Ibeno at home and in Diaspora wish to thank you severally and individually especially the lead Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Taiwo Taiwo for the landmark judgment of Monday, 21st June, 2021, for Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to pay the sum of N81.9 billion as cumulative damages to the oil communities in Ibeno within 14days and that failure to pay within the stipulated time would attract an accruable interest of 8 per cent on the principal sum annually.”
Continuing Owong Achianga said; “We are indeed grateful to all persons whom the Almighty God used as instrument to perfect this judgment in favour of Ibeno people after nine years of stressful and legal contest with MPNU and NNPC. Indeed, this is historic record for the Judiciary. I hope the edition of Nigerian Weekly Law Reports would chronicle this in their next edition.
“We lack adequate words to express the depth of our gratitude to you but we pray the good Lord to bless and reward each and every one bountifully and to grant the jurists the grace and more wisdom to continue to protect the defend less citizens in this great country against injustice and oppression.
“We equally appreciate Ibeno Legal team for their steadfastness and for the job well done and we call for concerted efforts to enforce the judgment.
At the stakeholders meeting, the community observed a minute silence for five dead members of the 10-Member plaintiffs, who represented themselves and on behalf of the people and members of Ibeno Clan in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State in the case: Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/54/2012 filed through their lawyer, Lucius Nwosu, SAN with a claim of N100billion.
The plaintiffs are HRH Obong (Dr.) Effiong B. Archianga, JP; Obong Daniel A. Udomfiok; Obong Daniel Peter Ekpo (Late); Obong Bassey I. Akpanika, JP, (Late); Chief Owon Sunday Akpanowong (Late); Williams Henry Mkpah; Obongonwan Besie O. Nyakpa (Late); Chief Edmond N. Okon; Chief Isuamdono l. Okon (Late) and Chief Okutinyang H. Inyang.