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Billion naira trouble

Posted by By JOE EFFIONG, Uyo on 2007/02/21 | Views: 583 |

Billion naira trouble


A 50-year old oil well belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd., at Ikot Ada Udo village, in Ikot Abasi Local Government area of Akwa Ibom State has become a fountain of problem, forcing the community to drag the oil giant to court and seeking N5 billion compensation.

•Community presses for damages over oil spill

A 50-year old oil well belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd., at Ikot Ada Udo village, in Ikot Abasi Local Government area of Akwa Ibom State has become a fountain of problem, forcing the community to drag the oil giant to court and seeking N5 billion compensation.

The community is led by the village head, Eteidung Alfred Akpan, the village chairman, Joseph Ataha and the village secretary, Chief Bruno Umoren and joined by Ufot Phenson, Emmanuel Bassey and Anajiya Ujuile, who are suing by their attorney.

In their particulars of claims, the plaintiffs, through their counsel, Messrs M. D. Uyoh and Company, averred in suit No. FHC/UY/CS/45/2006, filled at the Federal High Court Uyo, that the discovery of oil in their community brought about the acquisition of land for the establishment of helicopter path, access road to the oil well and other operational facilities by SPDC, but that since the company dug its first oil wells, it had not cared for them.

They averred, in the case before Justice G. K. Olotu, that when they observed the spill in 1997, they wrote to SPDC through their counsel in 1997 and 1999 but the company failed to reply even when the spills were becoming damaging to economic trees, aquatic lives and polluting water, among others.

"The plaintiffs led a delegation to the defendant and lodged the report of the spillage and demanded payment of compensation for the damage caused. The defendant refused and/or neglected to compensate the plaintiffs, but rather directed one Chief D. G. Ekperikpe to inspect the leakage and take steps to stop it. The spills well assumed a greater dimension and it reached a climax in 2006 when substantial damage was caused to farmland, pollution of drinking water and fish ponds, among others.

They averred that instead of paying compensation, the company used tricks to pay some youths only N15,000 to mop up the spills, and when it realized that the youths had decline to mop up the spills, and when it realized the had declined to carry out the job after hey had been informed of its implication, the company came back and forcefully picked the affected youths.

The community prays the court to ask the company to pay them "the sum of N5 billion, being special and general damages resulting from oil leakage from the valves of Xmas Tree well a.k.a. Ibibio I oil well at Ikot Ada Udo village due to negligence."
They are also seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, its workmen, servants or agents from neglecting to service or take necessary precaution to avoid further oil leakage from the said oil well in the community.

In its preliminary objection to the suit filed on November 11, 2006, Shell challenged the case on two grounds; first, that writ of summons served it in Port Harcourt, Rivers State was not endorsed for service outside jurisdiction and second, that the subject matter of the suit, as endorsed on the writ of summons, arose from oil spillage which occurred in 1997 and so same is statute barred by reason of the Limitation Act Law applicable in Akwa Ibom State.

Ruling on the ground one of the objection, Justice Olotu, on January 30, 2007 overruled it on the fact that the Federal High Court has territorial instruction in any part of Nigeria.
Similarly, she also overruled the second objection, stressing that though the spills started in 1997, its effects, as contained in the particulars of the case, subsist till date as such the suit was not statute barred.
In conclusion, she said "the preliminary objection raised by the defendants to the plaintiffs’ suit is dismissed with N20,000 costs against the defendant in favour of the plaintiffs"
The case was adjourned to March 27, 2007.

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