Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Federal Government Thursday told an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court that its decision not to renew the operating license of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) was in the interest of the nation’s security.
The oil giant in the legal action is seeking an order of the court to compel the Federal Government to grant or renew its Oil Mining Lease (OML)11.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, counsel to Federal Government, Mohammed Diri, while objecting to the suit said the primary objective of any responsible government is to guarantee the safety of lives and properties, adding that the refusal to renew OML 11 was a pre-emptive measure to prevent the occurrence or escalation of security breach in Ogoni area.
SDPC, in its suit, is seeking to compel the Minister of Petroleum Resources to renew OML 11, in addition to 14 other oil mining leases approved for it in June 30, 2019.
The Federal Government said OML 11 covered an area of 3,095.25 square kilometers that stretched between Rivers and Imo states with 14 oilfields, 10 out of which is located in Ogoni area of Rivers State.
It argued that besides the security challenges, SPDC is trying to compel the government to commit an illegality because an approval by the Minister of State for Petroleum of a single oil block size of 3, 095.25 is tantamount to facilitating illegality in contravention of the (Drilling and Production ) Regulation which limits the size of OML block to 1.295 square kilometers.(500 miles).
The Federal Government therefore urged the judge to hold that SPDC suit is destitute of merit and suffered incurable legal deficiency and should be dismissed.
However, hearing on the suit was adjourned to Friday to enable the government respond to issues of facts raised by the plaintiff in its further and better affidavit.
Diri had told the Court that he has not seen the further affidavit and reply which SPDC counsel Funke Adekoya (SAN) told the court was served on the respondents last Friday.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in the interest of justice, adjourned till today for the government’s response and hearing of the matter.