Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal government on Thursday, told the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court that its refusal to renew the operating license of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) was in the interest of the nation’s security.
Shell had commenced legal action against the Federal government before the court, seeking an order of the Court to compel the Federal government to grant or renew its Oil Mining Lease (OML)11.
When the case resumed on Thursday for hearing, counsel for FG, Mohammed Diri, had in his notice of preliminary objection, said that the primary objective of any responsible government is to guaranty the safety of lives and properties, adding that the refusal to renew OML 11 was a pre-emptive measures to prevent the occurrence or escalation of security breach in Ogoni area.
SDPC in its suit is seeking to compel the Minister of Petroleum Resources to renew OML 11, in addition to 14 other Oil mining leases approved for it in June 30, 2019.
The Federal government said that OML 11 covered an area of 3,095.25 square kilometers that stretched between Rivers and Imo states with 14 oilfields , 10 out of which is located in Ogoni area of Rivers State .
It said that besides the security challenges, SPDC is trying to compel the government to commit an illegality because an approval by the Minister of State for Petroleum of a single oil block size of 3, 095.25 is tantamount to facilitating illegality in contravention of the (Drilling and Production ) Regulation which limits the size of OML block to 1.295 square kilometers.(500 miles).
The federal government therefore urges the judge to hold that SPDC suit is destitute of merit and suffered incurable legal deficiency and should be dismissed.
However, hearing on the suit was adjourned to Friday to enable the government respond to issues of facts raised by the plaintiff in its further and better affidavit.
Diri had told the Court that he has not seen the further affidavit and reply which SPDC counsel Funke Adekoya (SAN) told the Court was served on the respondents last Friday.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo in the interest of justice adjourned till today for the government’s response and hearing of the matter.