Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Asaba Delta High Court orders SPDC to pay damages

The Federal High Court sitting in Asaba Delta State has ordered multinational oil giant Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to pay ₦15.4 billion in special and punitive damages to the people of Ejama-Ebubu community in the Tai Eleme local government area of Rivers State.

The damages are for an oil spill in the community that first occurred in 1970. The spill affected an area of about 255,369 ha.The presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, also ordered SPDC to de-pollute and rehabilitate the dry land and swamps of the affected community to its pre-oil spill impact status. Justice Buba faulted the objection to the suit by Shell on the grounds that the suit, if predicated on the 1970 spill, was statute barred.

According to Justice Buba, the case was predicated upon Shell's continuing 'nuisance.' The judge further stated that since Shell and its two subsidiaries, Shell International Petroleum Company Ltd and Shell International Exploration and Production BV, which were co-defendants in the suit, elected not to call evidence to support their pleadings, all the facts raised in their defence pleadings went to no issue.

He stated, however, that this did not absolve the plaintiffs of their responsibility to prove their case, which he adjudged they had done. The suit was originally instituted in 2001 and had gone through two other judges – Justice Adamu Bello and Justice Regina Nwodo – before getting to Justice Buba. There were about 24 interlocutory applications and three interlocutory appeals by the defendants, all of which served to delay the matter.

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