Oil Spill: FG sues 5 firms for N1.3 trillion

Posted by News Express | 3 May 2016 | 2,232 times

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President Muhammadu Buhari has authorised the Attorney General and Minister for Justice alongside the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, to institute a N1.3trn suit against Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company and four others. The suit is being instituted on behalf of the Federal Government and the 350 communities in Delta and Bayelsa states affected by Bonga oil spills of December 20, 2011. Joined as co-defendants in the suit are; Shell Petroleum N.V, B.V Netherlandse International Indusrie-E Handel Maatschappij, The Shell Transport and Trading Company Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, who are all allied companies of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company.

In the suit, Nigeria is demanding N884bn as compensation for the oil spill that destroyed the affected communities and another N495bn as restitution and restoration of the devastation caused by the spill on the eco system and the country’s territorial waters and N50m as legal cost. In an affidavit sworn to by a Deputy Director, Oil Field Assessment Department of NOSDRA, Mr. Akindele Olubunmi, and filed before a Federal High Court Abuja by a Lagos lawyer, Barrister Awosika Dada Adekunle, the Deponent averred that he has the consent and the authority of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice and the Director General of NOSDRA to depose to the affidavit. The affidavit also stated that the plaintiffs instituted the legal action in relation to damage and devastation done to the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country, ecosystem, marine life and the environment by the Bonga crude oil spills of 2011.

The Federal Government, according to the affidavit, said it is suing the defendants in order to protect the interest of fishermen and persons affected by the crude oil spillage, numbering about 285,000 persons from 350 communities and satellite villages with their consent to institute the suit. Government said around December 20, 2011, the defendants’ export line, linking their Float Production Storage and Offloading, FPSO, vessel at their Bonga Field Deep Offshore supplying crude oil to a tanker (MV NORTHIA), got ruptured and spewed out crude oil into the sea. The plaintiffs said the incident was reported to the Federal Government same day through NOSDRA.

“Consequently, the defendants admitted spewing out 40,000 barrels of crude oil into the sea, causing devastation and degradation of the aquatic life, marine environment, including the territorial waters of Nigeria along Niger Delta axis and destroy the sea beds and aquatic lives in the Continental Shelf within the Nigeria Exclusive Economic Zone,” the plaintiffs said.

The plaintiffs added that there were severe disruptions to communities, persons, properties and lives of people in the shoreline area as a result of the spill. Plaintiffs added that as a result of the report and admission by the defendants, it commissioned consultants and experts in collaboration with other stakeholders that included Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency, National Assembly Committee on Environment and Ecology, among others, to carry out the mapping of the area that suffered economic losses and damages. “Aftermath of the investigations and in line with their statutory duties and obligations, the plaintiffs notified the defendants of their decision to pay $3,600,191,206 representing compensation to the 350 communities and satellite villages impacted by the Bonga Oil spill disaster and punitive damage which is to be paid to the plaintiffs as sanction totalling $1.8bn to deter occurrence of such act,” the court papers said.

However, it was alleged that despite the facts that the defendants have processed and received insurance claims for the crude oil spillage that occurred at OML 118 Bonga Oil Field, they have refused and neglected to pay compensation, punitive damage and cost of restoration, restitution and redemption of the environment statutorily assessed by the plaintiffs. According to claimants’ affidavit, the plaintiffs’ punitive compensation being requested was adopted after the United States Supreme Court decision of 25th June, 2008 against Exxon Valdez in Wallings Versus Waillings and in line with international best practices as it has been seen in other climes like Ecuadorian court, which awarded $9.5bn against Chevron Corporation and most recently in the United States of America where British Petroleum in April 2011 settled and agreed to pay $20bn as compensation for oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Consequently, the plaintiffs are seeking an order directing the defendants to pay the sum of N712, 837,858,788.00 to the plaintiffs as compensation to the affected communities.

•Text courtesy of National Mirror. Photo shows President Buhari.

Source: News Express

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