Court Reprimands FG for Poor Handling of Cases against IOCs

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Davidson Iriekpen
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday reprimanded the federal government for not diligently prosecuting its case against Shell and other oil companies.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Charles Nwabulu, informed the court of his application for amendment of his pleadings.

He also sought to withdraw an earlier application he had filed and put in the new application.
But judge frowned at the development and urged counsel to exhibit more seriousness in the case.
She consequently, awarded a cost of N100,000 against the plaintiff, and adjourned the suit to March 20, 21 and 22 for trial.

She said: “You have been so unserious in this case and still have the guts to open your mouth when am talking; I will adjourn this case for trial.”

The suit numbered FHC/L/CS/336/16, and filed on behalf of the federal government by Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), it accused Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Ltd and its subsidiary, Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd of under declaring the number of barrels of crude oil shipped to the Unites States.

In a similar suit, the court also fixed March 30, for hearing in a case between the federal government and Agip Oil Company Ltd.

In the suit, the plaintiff, (federal government) is claiming the sum of 406.7 million dollars, 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 was following 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 hydro-carbons, 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 the United States ports.

Plaintiff averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire shortfall to 406.75 million dollars.
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.

The federal government is asking for a total of 12.7 billion dollars 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.