Oil Spill: Court Awards N10bn against Mobil

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Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos has awarded N10billion against Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited over a 1998 oil spillage.

The sum is in favour of fishing communities and cooperatives of Lagos. The suit was filed on their behalf by Chief M. A. Ajanaku and others.

They sought a declaration that the defendant’s continued failure, neglect and refusal to undertake post impact remediation measures to restore the ecosystem of the lands and waters of life inhabited by the plaintiffs and where they carry on their occupation of fishing and fish farming, was unlawful, unconstitutional and a violation of the plaintiffs’ right to life, and right to live in an environment favourable to their socio-economic development as guaranteed under Section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999, Articles 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

They also prayed for a declaration that the plaintiffs whose representatives signed the release forms in favour of the defendant signed same by the undue influence of the Defendant and that the document is therefore null and void.

The plaintiffs’ also prayed the court to hold that the document purporting to release the defendant from paying due compensation to the plaintiffs who signed the documents and or from effecting post-impact remediation programmes to restore the plaintiffs’ environment is null and void on grounds that the document relates to an unconscionable bargain which was signed under economic duress and in breach of statutory provisions.

The sought an order for the delivery and cancellation of all release documents signed by representatives of some of the Plaintiffs on the grounds that the signatures of some of the representatives of the Plaintiffs thereon was obtained by economic duress, undue influence and fraud.

They also sought order that the defendant should commence post impact remediation programmes in respect of the plaintiffs’ lands and waters polluted by the defendant’s Idoho oil spill and do all such acts and things to clean up the environment of the Plaintiffs and to restore same to its original state.

The plaintiffs sought special damages of the sum of N8,400,000,000, interest at the rate of 10 per cent per annum from 26th January 1998 until judgment and interest on the same rate until full payment thereof by the defendant.

The plaintiffs further claimed N1,400,000,000 being general damages for the infraction of their constitutional and statutory rights and interest on the judgment sum at the rate of 10 per cent from the date of judgment until full payment.
Justice Buba, in a judgment on December 14, granted all of the Plaintiffs claims save the claim of interest.
The action lasted for 14 years before judgment as Mobil appeal the dismissal of its preliminary objection.