$406.75m Oil Theft: Absence of Judge Stalls FG’s Suit against Shell

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 Davidson Iriekpen
A Federal High Court Lagos yesterday fixed December 8 to hear a suit by the federal government, against Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd, over alleged crude oil theft.

The suit numbered FHC/L/CS/336/16, was filed by the counsel to the government, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN).

It has as defendants, Shell Petroleum Development. Company of Nigeria Ltd and its subsidiary, Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd.

The suit is pending before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.
The suit which had earlier been fixed for yesterday, could not proceed following the absence of the trial judge.

No reason was given for her absence.
A new date, December 8 was however, fixed as new date for hearing of the suit.
Meanwhile, the plaintiff has filed a motion to amend its statement of claim, and is yet to move same before the court.

In the suit, the federal government is claiming the sum of $406.7 million, from the defendants, representing the shortfall of money paid by it, into the federal government account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The money was said to be for crude oil lifted in 2013 and 2014.
In a supporting affidavit, the federal government had accused the Anglo-Dutch company of not declaring or under-declaring crude oil shipments during the period.
It said this followed forensic analysis of bills of laden and shipping documents, adding that Shell cheated Nigeria of the revenue.

According to the affidavit, the consortium of experts tracked the global movements of the country’s hydrocarbons, including crude oil and gas.

They identified the companies engaged in the practices that led to missing revenues from crude oil and gas export sales to different parts of the world.

They also revealed discrepancies in the export records from Nigeria with the import records at US ports.
The plaintiff averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire shortfall to $406.75 million.

The defendants were said to have failed to respond to a federal government letter through its legal representative, seeking clarification as to the discrepancies.

The federal government is therefore, seeking a court order to compel the two companies to pay $406.75 million, being the total value of the missing revenue and interest payment at 21 per cent per annum.
In addition, the government is also asking Shell to pay general exemplary damages in the sum of $406.75 million as well as the cost of the legal action.

The federal government had also sued Chevron, Total and Agip, in a similar case before the court.
It is asking for a total of $12.7 billion over alleged non-declaration of 57 million barrels of crude shipped to the US between 2011 and 2014.
They are among 15 oil majors targeted by the government for the recovery of $17 billion in deprived revenue.