Oil spills hit 14m litres as Shell’s N800b judgment upsets industry

Hiseasnetwork1个月前Europe62
As International Oil Companies (IOCs) are planning to divest from Nigeria, concerns are beginning to mount over growing cases of oil spillage in the Niger Delta region and the N800 billion... Oil spills hit 14m litres as Shell’s N800b judgment upsets industry• NNPC, Shell, other spills worth N2.8b in months • Experts question integrity of oil infrastructure as failure persist  • IOCs must be forced to clean up as they divest, stakeholders demand

As International Oil Companies (IOCs) are planning to divest from Nigeria, concerns are beginning to mount over growing cases of oil spillage in the Niger Delta region and the N800 billion court judgment between Shell Nigeria and some communities in the region.

In less than three years, weak infrastructure, especially pipelines, according to stakeholders, has led to the spillage of 14 million litres of crude oil, worth N2.8 billion coupled with cascading environmental dangers and health burden, leading to increase in cases of infant mortality and cancers.

In fact, fresh intrigues are beginning to emerge ahead January, when the court would decide the fate of Shell Nigeria in an N800 billion damages earlier awarded by the Federal High Court in Owerri for the 2019 spillage in Eleme communities of River State. 

The jury is nearly out in the biggest dispute award ever in Nigeria’s volatile oil industry. But whether Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Limited, along with its two parent companies in the United Kingdom and The Hague, Netherlands, can come clean of culpability in a historic dispute debt awarded against it in a spill that occurred on swamp farmlands in Egbalor, Ebubu in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, is what industry watchers are waiting to see next month.

Shell, using all its legal resources, is seeking to convince the judge at the Court of Appeal to obviate payment of damages to some 88 persons, who got judgment in November 2020 from a Federal High Court in Owerri over spillage on their fishing facilities in Ejalawa community, Oken-Ogogu swamp farmlands.

The judge of the Federal High Court, Owerri, Imo State, T.G. Ringim, had in the judgment last year, held that Shell Nigeria, Shell International Exploration and Production BV (SIE&P) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were liable for the spill.

Isaac Torchi and 87 members of the Ejalawa community had gone to court against SPDC, SIE&P BV and NNPC over oil spillage in January 2020, which they claimed destroyed their environment and their sources of livelihood – mainly fishing and agriculture.

Earlier in August this year, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant finally agreed to pay N45.7 billion to the Ejama-Ebubu community, after 31 years of legal tussle. The court has fixed January 25, 2022 to hear the oil company’s application.

The appellate court would also on that date hear all other pending applications, including that of the plaintiffs/respondents, seeking an order of court directing Shell to deposit the said judgment sum with the court as condition for hearing the application for stay, as well as another case seeking to set aside the notice of appeal filed by Shell on the grounds it is incompetent and an abuse of court process.

MOST stakeholders are insisting that oil companies must be forced to remedy years of environmental degradation as they are already divesting their assets from the country, otherwise indigenous firms planning to take over the assets or the Federal Government would be faced with clearing the Augean stable.

Though not the only country producing crude oil or the highest producer, Nigeria is regarded as the highest oil spilling nation, with Shell Nigeria, according to data from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), leading other companies to deface the environment with an average of 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily.

NOSDRA survey showed that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Shell Nigeria led other oil companies to spill nothing less N2.8 billion worth of the nation’s crude in about three years.

The concern for most environmental rights activists, legal experts and other industry stakeholders is that the growing cases of oil spill and court cases emanating from them pose fresh test as the N800 billion landmark judgment, regarded as the highest fine ever in the history of the country, may reshape the nation’s oil industry.

Industry stakeholders are also pointing accusing fingers at the integrity of oil infrastructure in the country, insisting that it was high time for the judiciary, as well as oil regulators, to make operators pay the price of negligence.

Despite the presence of NOSDRA and the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) now Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NURC), about 21,291 barrels of the nation’s crude oil was spilled in 2020, 42,076 barrels in 2019 and 25,308 barrels in 2018, combining with gas flaring to worsen environmental issues for oil producing communities.

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