A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered that the sum of N182.7bn be paid to Ogoni community from the account of First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
FBN was compelled to pay the judgment sum on behalf of Shell Petroleum Development Company for causing damage to the community and its environs as a result of oil spillage.
The presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, ordered the CBN to deduct the sum from the FBN’s account and pay the people of Ejama Community in the Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The ruling read in part, “The guarantor/surety/debtor secured and guaranteed to pay the judgment creditors special damages; and interest for delayed payment for five years from 1996 at 25 per cent per annum i.e. 25 per cent of the said sum till the date of judgment; N10bn as general damages; and 10 per cent interest on the judgment debt till payment giving a total of N76,871,175,831.18 as at June 14, 2010, being the date of the judgment but with the accrual of post judgment interest totalled N182.768,696,651.89.”
The ruling was said to be in satisfaction of the judgment debt in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/231/2001 (later renumbered Suit No. FHC/ASB/ CS/57/2010): Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara and five others vs CBN and two others as well as Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/562/19 2/: Agbara and two others, vs the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited and others.
Originally instituted at the Rivers State High Court, Nchia Division, by six indigenes of Ogoni land against the Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Netherlands, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, United Kingdom, and SPDC over alleged oil spills that occurred when Shell operated in the community, the case has been ongoing since 1991 and is reported to have led to the Ogoni struggle championed by the late Mr. Ken Saro Wiwa.
Judgment was eventually entered in their favour against Shell by the state High Court, whereupon the defendant appealed against the said judgment.
A fresh suit was filed by select representatives of the Ogoni people in 2001 at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt claiming N17bn and interests for losses allegedly caused by the oil spills.
Justice Buba ruled in favour of the plaintiffs but Shell appealed the judgment and applied for a stay of execution pending the appeal. As a condition for granting it, the court asked Shell’s bankers, First Bank, to provide a guarantee of the judgment sum – a condition that was complied with.
But Shell’s appeal failed at the Court of Appeal on technical grounds.
Judgment creditors (Ogoni representatives) commenced garnishee proceedings at the Federal High Court in Owerri in 2018 and filed contempt proceedings against the bank before Justice Buba who delivered the judgment in 2010.
After the Appellate Court ruling, Shell and First Bank proceeded to the Supreme Court but their appeal was dismissed.