Ejama-Ebubu community prays Supreme Court to reject Shell’s request to reopen N17bn Judgment


By Ebere Agozie

Abuja, Sept. 22, 2020 The Ejama-Ebubu community in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to reject request by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited set aside a N17 billion judgment entered against in 2019.

The apex court on Jan. 11, 2019 upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal which had slammed N17 billion in damages against the oil giant for oil spillage in Ejama-Ebubu in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The plea was in a preliminary objection filed by Chief Isaac Agbara and nine others to the application by Shell asking the apex court to set aside its earlier judgment in the matter.

The respondents arguing the preliminary objection through their lead counsel, Chief Lucius Nwosu SAN, described Shell’s request as scandalous and an affront to the finality of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Nwosu while urging the court to dismiss Shell’s application for being incompetent said that the Supreme Court cannot sit on appeal in its own judgment.

The senior lawyer further argued that the action of the oil giant was a deliberate abuse of court process with a weighty request based on 23 grounds.

He further contended that the Supreme Court by its unanimous judgment of Jan. 11, 2019 put an end to the over 30-year-old legal tussle on the oil spillage suffered by the respondents and their people in the oil producing region.

Nwosu drew the attention of the apex court panel to a letter of the Supreme Court in which the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, while reacting to a clarification to the January 11, 2019 judgment, made it clear that the appeal by Shell Petroleum had become spent.

He further informed the court that the judgment being sought to be set aside by the oil company had already been partly executed with over N1 billion recovered by the respondents, adding that section 235 of the 1999 Constitution makes the Supreme Court a final court in the land and that no appeal can be entertained from the Supreme Court decision.

He, therefore, pleaded with the apex court to reject the invitation by Shell to make the court sit as an appellate court in its own judgment so as not to make the court eat its words.

He also noted that the same shell that is reluctant to pay damages to Nigerian victims of its oil spillage had in similar situations pay over 206 million dollars to victims in Mexico.

But Shell Petroleum company through its team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, described the opposition of the respondents as frivolous because it has no bearing with jurisdictional issue.

Olanipekun contended that what the respondents tagged a judgment was a ruling and not a final judgment.

He submitted that Shell’s request has a judicial precedence, adding that the oil giant would not have come back to the apex court to seek for review of its judgment if there was no precedent.

The senior lawyer faulted the claim that the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in its Jan. 11, 2019 decision, arguing that there cannot be a dismissal when a matter had not been heard on merit.

He therefore pleaded with the apex court to dismiss the preliminary objection to its client’s application for judgment review.

The five-member panel led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour after listening to the submissions of parties to the preliminary objection adjourned until Nov. 27 for ruling.

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