The attempt by Rivers State Government to acquire a stake in a disputed mining lease in Ogoniland located in the oil mining concession OML 11 operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has hit the rock following a court ruling in the United Kingdom.
The Ejama-Ebubu community in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State had requested to register Nigeria’s court judgement in a UK High Court. The court awarded the community N15.41 billion for damages suffered as a result of the pollution caused by the 1969/70 oil spill as the community had blamed Shell for the oil spill.
However, the UK High Court rejected their request as the request for registration of a court order should normally be within a year. But the request by the community was made more than eight years after the court’s ruling. The court in Nigeria had given the order on June 14, 2010. The community sought for the registration on February 25, 2019.
Why the community went to UK: The move to register the judgement of a Nigerian court in a UK court was to enable the representatives of the community to have access to Shell’s asset in Europe and around the world for enforcement.
Did Rivers truly acquire any stake? Despite the claim by the Rivers State Government that it had acquired the stakes of the oil mining lease in the community, the Department of Petroleum Resources denied any knowledge of the sale.
According to a report by Premium Times, Governor Wike said the state government had submitted a bid of $150 million for 45% equity in the asset reputed to hold about 250,000 barrels per day (BPD) of oil potential. The asset is jointly owned by Shell and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).
While a source claimed that the community could have offered the asset to the state government, Shell didn’t acknowledge the sale, stating that the matter was still in court. The Nigerian court order had been challenged by Shell. The oil company filed a petition to object to the ruling, stating that the spill was a third-party incident as it occurred during the civil war.
“The spill was caused by third parties during the Nigerian Civil War, a challenging period which resulted in significant damage to oil and gas infrastructure in the region,” Shell’s spokesperson, Bamidele Odugbesan said.
Odugbesan added that “While SPDC does not accept responsibility for these spills, the affected sites in the Ebubu community were fully remediated.” The UK judgement means the community will have to wait for the ruling on the appeal of Shell against the N15.41 billion for damages order.