Nigeria Sues Shell over Bonga Oil Spill

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Akindele Olubunmi

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Nigeria is suing the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company for the Bonga oil spill after the company failed to pay compensation and remediate the environment degraded by the spillage

THE federal government of Nigeria is suing the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNEPCO on behalf of 350 communities in Delta and Bayelsa States affected by Bonga Oil spills of December, 20, 2011. President Muhammadu Buhari last week ordered the attorney general of federation, AGF, and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, to commence legal action against SNEPCO. The country is demanding N784 billion as compensation for oil spill that destroyed the affected communities.

The Nigerian government, according to The News, is also demanding another N495 billion as restitution and restoration of the devastation of the economic zone of the Nigeria territorial waters, and N50 million as cost of this legal action. Joined as co-defendants in the legal battle are, Shell Petroleum N.V, B.V Netherlandse International Indusrie-E Handel Maatschappij, Shell Transport and Trading Company Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which are all allied companies of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company.

Akindele Olubunmi, deputy director, Oil Field Assessment Department, NOSDRA, in an affidavit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, said he had the consent and the authority of, President Buhari, AGF and the director general of NOSDRA to bring the legal action in relation to the damage and devastation done to the exclusive economic zone, ecosystem, marine life, and the environment caused by Bonga crude oil spills of December 20, 2011.

The Nigerian government alongside, NOSDRA are also suing in order to protect the interest of fishermen and persons affected by the Bonga crude oil spill numbering about 285,000 persons from 350 communities and satellite villages with their consent to institute this suit. Olubunmi averred that around December 20, 2011, Shell in the course of their oil and gas exploration activities within OML 118 approximately 120 kilometres off the coast of Guinea, recorded a record oil spill.

Olubunmi in the affidavit stated that this happened when the export line linking their Float Production Storage and Offloading, FPSO, vessel at their Bonga Field deep offshore, which was supplying crude oil to a tanker (MV NORTHIA), ruptured thereby spewed out crude oil into the sea. The incident was reported to the federal government that same day through NOSDRA.

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 destroying the sea beds and aquatic lives in the continental shelf within the Nigeria exclusive economic zone. There were severe disruptions to communities, persons, properties and lives of people in the shoreline area as a result of the spill.

The plaintiffs, inaugurated consultants and experts, in collaboration with other stakeholders including, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, National Assembly Committee on Environment and Ecology to carry out the mapping area that suffered economic losses and damages.

Aftermath of all 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 $1.8 billion from the said sum to deter occurrence of such dastardly act

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 on December 20,2011, the defendants have refused and neglected to pay compensation, punitive damage and cost of restoration, restitution and redemption of the environment statutorily assessed by the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs punitive compensation was adopted after the United States Supreme Court decision of June 25, 2008, against Exxon Valdez in Wallings Versus Waillings and in line with international best practices as it has been seen in other climes like Equadorian court awarded $9.5billion against Chevron Corporation and most recently in the United States of America, British Petroleum in April 2011 settled and agreed to pay $20billion oil spill at Gulf of Mexico to be shared among various communities directly impacted by the disaster.

Consequently, the plaintiffs are now seeking the following reliefs from the court, an order directing the defendants to pay the sum of N712.8 billion to the plaintiffs as compensation to the affected communities. An order directing the defendants to pay the sum of N71.2 billion representing administrative costs and fees to the consultants and experts engaged to carry out damage assessment.

An order directing the defendants to pay to the plaintiffs the sum of N495 Billion for restitution and restoration of the damage and devastation of the Nigeria territorial waters occasioned by the negligent conduct of the defendants. An order of the court directing the defendants jointly and severally to pay the plaintiffs N50 million as cost of this legal action.

Meanwhile, based on an application filed and argued before the court by Dada Awosika, plaintiffs’ counsel, seeking the order of the court to serve court process on four of the defendants who are based outside the country, Justice Binta Murtala Nyako adjourned the case to June 6, 2016.

She ordered that all the court process in the case should be served on Shell Petroleum N.V, B.V Netherlandse International indusrie-E Handel Maatschappij, Royal Transport and Trading Company Plc and Royal Dutch Plc.

— May 16, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT

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