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N134bn Judgment Debt: Shell Must Comply With Judgment – Oguru

The traditional ruler of Ejamah Community in Ebubu Eleme, His Royal Highness, Chief (Hon.) Peter N. Oguru, Oneh Eeh Eta Ejamah XII, has advised Shell Nigeria (SPDC) and Shell International to accept and comply with the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in favour of his Community (Ejamah) over oil spillage which he said has contaminated the ecosystem and livelihood of their Community.

Oguru also called on Shell to do the right thing at the right time by creating a good relationship with their host community of Ejamah and thanked the judiciary for the judgment which he said has delivered justice to Ejamah people and reaffirmed hope in the judiciary.

It would be recalled that the Supreme Court of Nigeria had on Friday 11th January, 2019 dismissed an appeal filed by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) which prevented First Bank of Nigeria from paying the plaintiffs, Ejamah Community a judgment debt now totaling N134 billion to the Community.

Counsel to Ejamah Community Lucius Nwosu, (SAN) in his reaction to the Supreme Court judgment said: “With the decision, therefore, all arguments of First Bank that Shell was on a further appeal at the Supreme Court for which they were reneging from honouring their obligation that was due by virtue of their guarantee has completely collapsed and as of today, the guarantee is standing at N134 billion, contingent liability of First Bank’s assets. And that there is a garnishee order nisi attaching First Bank’s money at the CBN which since had been served on the Central Bank.

He further stated that: “With the judgment now, the Central Bank is under an obligation to set aside that amount of money with interest still running from First Bank’s account to satisfy that judgment debt based on what the law says under garnishee orders”.

Meanwhile, Chief (Hon.) Ntorbari Ogosu, a stakeholder in Ejamah Community in a chat with Inside Eleme gave a vivid narration of the genesis of the matter between Ejamah Community and SPDC and all that transpired resulting to the suit against Shell and the alleged dethronement of Chief Isaac Agbara.

Hear him: “Ejamah is one of the four communities that make up Ebubu Kingdom in Eleme Local Government of Rivers State. The four communities are: Ejamah, Egbalor, Agbeta and Obolo. Ejamah Community or Clan is made up of seven communities or sub clan, namely: Obiban, Egbara, Aluejor, Ochani, Alukere, Okpako and Ebo Ekpo Nkiken.

These seven communities are sub-divided into units/villages and are governed distinctively according to Eleme native customs and traditions in view of the law and order as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“This matter is a case founded on nuisance arising from continuing damage as a result of crude hydrocarbon oil spillage, which admittedly in the SPDC (Defendants) Trans Niger Oil Pipeline which traverse Ejamah Community.

The Defendants (SPDC) are oil producing companies who transacts their businesses transporting their oil from various oil wells spreading across Eleme and Ogoni Land. In course of their transactions, they constructed pipelines to convey their crude oil (products) out through the pipelines to Bonny Oil Terminal for export. It is this process that the spillage complained against did occur in 1970.

“The oil spillage occurred as a result of overbearing pressure from the heavy current and volumes of the crude oil which the obsolete pipeline could not withstand and got the pipeline to burst or explode.

The crude oil continued to gush out in large quantities spreading faster and dangerously across farmlands, swamps, streams and polluted area that went beyond 255 hectares. The resultant effect was a devastating oil pollution which was adjudged as been worst in the entire African continent. It is a continuing destruction of our soil, vegetations, aquatic lives, ecosystem and worst still, the wild spread of epidemics and catastrophes and immense reduction of human capacity building and increased death tolls in Ejamah Community.

“The continuing contamination of our environment without any effort to de-pollute, clean up and remediate to bring back the affected to pre impact status and the gross injurious damages gave instance to the ensuing litigation. It is pertinent to note that often times in this subject matter in litigation and under examination or discussion, that the issue of the period/year, position cause and substance or pollutant, nor the destructive impact and issues on the Ejamah people had remained unchallenged, incontrovertible, uncontradicted. The materials and physical evidences and pollutants are the properties of SPDC. Another disturbing fact is that the case is predicated upon continuing nuisance /damage and that is subsisting even till this day, therefore the right of action accrues every day.

“The point to note here is basically point of law which states that it is argued that the law is settled that, pleadings not supported or substantiated with or by evidence go to on issues and since the defendants (SPDC) have refused or elected not to call their evidence, which of course they cannot manufacture, they don’t have one, it means therefore that all the facts raised in their defense goes to no issue.

“The contending question submitted for consideration is whether the oil spillage went beyond the defendants’ right of way and got into the plantiffs’ (Ejamah peoples’ land)? The answer is an emphatic YES!

It is on this contention or premise that delineation of the area the pollutant/crude oil pollution affected was done and provided by (SPDC) defendants themselves, which is 255.369 hectares.

It is an accepted fact between Ejamah people and SPDC before the Honourable Court of competent jurisdiction that impacted area is 255 hectares and should be cleaned up.

The burning contention now shouldn’t be when it occurred but the impact of the pollution as regards to the life and the injurious; infections the people are suffering and the continuing and escalating devastation and contamination of the environment if life is still precious.

“The suggestion from SPDC defendants that the spill occurred in the 1960s cannot be correct and cannot be relied upon because there is no witness to substantiate that claim, so it lacks merit. Ejamah people have had 30years of injurious affections from when the defendants filed their amended statement of defense from 1996 to 15/05/2006.

The situation is utterly preposterous; you just don’t wake up one morning to waive aside some privileged evidences certified by Court of competent jurisdiction entirely by belated lies with regards to one carefully circumscribed matter in Court.

If you asked me if I have some precedents to aid me in exposing the speculation and falsehood of SDPC as they are caught in their own web.

I will say YES, and I do feel obligated to take judicial notice of various correspondences between SPDC (Defendants) and Ejamah people which Shell have admitted that the crude hydrocarbon spillage did occur in 1970 and which of course has been certified and marked as exhibits by Court.

“The act of coming out this late to suggest that the incident occurred in the 1960s is but with one glaring aberration that I am trying to comprehend the paradox in which we generally find ourselves and that manner of SPDC irresponsible denials was like listening to compendium of horrors utterly abhorrent as we are aware of Shell’s impetuous proclivities.

Firstly, I would want to tell you, that Shell are being mischievous in their denial of facts accepted before the Court just to assuage or subvert Court judgment as already given. I make reference to Exhibit P6 a letter dated 20th May, 1991 caption: “LETTER OF INTRODUCTION” addressed to the former Paramount Ruler of Ejamah Community, Chief George O. Osaro.

The first paragraph reads: “We refer to the pollution incident that occurred in your community early in the 1970s” quote. The spilled crude oil was collected in some relief waste pits around the pollution site.

In furtherance, Shell informed the Highness that they are sending a survey crew from International Hydrographic Company Limited to demarcate the boundary of the relief waste pits, so as to burn off the crude oil. As I speak with you now, this letter formed one of the bases of proven evidences that facilitated the judgments as been declared in our favour; Letter from S.A. Lawson Jack, Head, Public and Government Affairs for and on behalf of SPDC.

Secondly, in Exhibit P7 was a letter to another former Paramount Ruler of Ejamah who is recently deposed partly because of over indulgence to SPDC. The letter captioned as thus:

“Clean-Up and Remediation of Bomu-Bonny TNP Spill Site at – Ejamah Ebubu”.

First paragraph I quote: “We wish to seek your consent and cooperation for Shell Petroleum Development Company to commence cleanup and remediation of the 1970 spill site at Ejamah Ebubu along the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) in your kingdom.

It further explained that in view of the complexity of the spill site, the clean up and remediation shall be undertaken in about 3 phases and that if your consent is obtained, they will commence the face one clean up in August 2006. Originator – Drew Weir (Head Availability Corporate Pipelines) and Philip D. Shekwolo, (Coordinator, Oil Spill Response Cleanup and Remediation) for and on behalf of SPDC.

Exhibit P8 was a letter of appreciation to the prompt response of Ejamah people dated 1st of September, 2006.

Exhibit P9 is where Shell shot themselves in the leg. Letter dated 12th of September, 2006, captioned: “CLEAN UP AND REMEDIATION OF BOMU-BONNY TNP SPILL SITE AT EJAMAH”. This document was tendered and admitted as exhibit P9 at the Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State. Please permit me to read the first paragraph. I read or state thus: “Further to our meeting on Tuesday 5th of September, 2006 in SPDC Port Harcourt and another with your traditional councils on Saturday 9th of September, 2006 in your palace, we once more wish to express our profound gratitude for granting us consent to undertake clean up and remediation of the entire impacted area. Paragraph two continues: “We wish to forward five names of selected contractors for the execution of the work.

“We have decided on five contractors in order to ensure speedy execution. The names are: Zenith Energy Inter Nig Ltd., Fam Nigeria Ltd., Jessva Nig. Ltd., Comora Nig. Ltd. and Macdonald Environmental Inter Nig. Ltd.

This document is also admitted and stamped as a working document in the Federal High Court in Asaba in Delta State. This companies paid the sum of N10m (Ten million naira) only, each to the people of Ejamah as homage to start work at the pollution site.

The sum total of the money amounted to N50m (Fifty million naira) only, Forty million naira only, N40m was shared among the people of Ejamah. The balance of N10m (Ten million naira) only was given to the former Paramount Ruler, Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara to draw electricity from  Trailer Park to Ejamah Communities, a Trunk A – An industrial line but this huge amount is until as I speak not been accounted for.

“The embezzlement of this fund (money) also led to the dethronement of the former Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara. In view of the aforementioned Exhibit, it is crystals clear that Shell in attempting to obviate the cause of incident so as to eliminate resultant effect (consequences).

They realized too late that their involvement would be criminal to refuse to accept the judgment of the courts. Shell is making some horrendous errors trying to change the sceneries but it’s beyond their providence.

The only reasonable thing to do is to accept the verdict of the court as a solution for their past malfeasances. It’s important for the purveyors of this grousers and fiendish and aggravatingly continuing hazard in Ejamah Ebubu to confess and promise to make full restitution.

It is a fact that the admitted evidences marked as Exhibits are circumstantial evidence cited are viable, reliable, accepted and are capable of believe.

Rather than making plans to de-pollute the area or bring back the area to a pre-impact status, they are busy causing divide and rule method by empowering the former traditional ruler, Chief Isaac O. Agbara to cause destabilization, pandemonium, lawlessness, strife, intimidation, arrest and breach of peace in Ejamah Community.

“Shell is employing espionage disposition involving in a clandestine (Convert) operations and superstitious methods through the instrumentality of the former traditional ruler, Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara and his cohorts, the police and vicious thugs even included the most wanted gang, cult leader nick named Supreme who was shot and killed last year at Tai Local Government Area in Rivers State. But he was an indigene of Egbalor Ebubu in Eleme Local Government Rivers State.

The former traditional ruler, the proud owner of Millennium Hotel in Ogale Nchia is reeling in ebullient evidence of large chunk of overtures (bribe) from Shell.

After receiving this bribe, he became excessively pliable and instrument of destruction assisting Shell to destroy the hardcover congealed crust, black coated substances and remains of the effects on ground which remained as a physical evidence of the hydrocarbon oil spillage in Ejamah Ebubu.

After the five contractors (left) ran out from site because they could not clean the area, the Ejamah people went and locked up the pollution site that was as a result of revelation we got from the contractors, that the essence of the clean up was a cover up to remove the evidence of pollution in the affected area.

So after that deliberate action, from the community, Shell lured Chief Isaac O. Agbara and gave him huge amount of undisclosed sum of money and registered him as a Shell contractor and promised him other largess and incentives that made him to betray the trust reposed in him as a Paramount / Traditional Ruler of the Ejamah people.

Shell allegedly confided in the former Chief and promised to pay him staggering amount suspected to be well over N25bn (Twenty Five billion naira) only to help them cover up the evidence of pollution on the site.

On that outrageous and evil covenant, the former chief went and broke the padlock and one morning before 7am Shell had flooded the area with all sort and kinds of uniform men and sealed up the road connecting the axis making life for the residents and neighbours and road users very unbearable.

When the former chief, Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara was contacted he lied that he was not in town, the following day when he eventually come, he was asked whether he was aware of the presence of Shell and Army, Police and other security agencies at the polluted site, he said he should have asked us who are living in the community, that how can he know what is happening from Millennium in Ogale. However, he pleaded with the community to make some consultations and get back to the community, by then the intruders have settled down and work commenced immensely. It took Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara three days to get back to the community. He lied and denied at first but later admitted that he broke the padlock believing to replace it after they might have left and also denied that he did not know the extent of what they wanted to do to be that magnitude.

When the community observed with dismay and consternation the attitude of both Shell and Chief Isaac O. Agbara to be working in synergy they were perplexed and dumbfounded.

Further investigation revealed that Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara was the sole contractor on ground who was the labour supplier, he supplied gears, foods in varieties, lacterites (red earth) top soil and grass, sharp sands, rain boot and rain coat, safety boots, helmets, water, fuel and diesels, heavy duty equipment and what have you.

On the offence, the community summoned him, Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara to Alukere town hall after he has been duly informed on the charges of conspiracy and betrayal against him, but he refused to honour the summoning. He ignored the community and went about his contract jobs at the spill site.

This time Shell succeeded in removing the evidence of pollution, covered up the waste pollutant borrowed pit dug to an extent and leveled the various sands and planted grasses, there and then they promised to build Ultra Modern Civil Centre, Three Star Hotels, Ultra Modern Swimming Pool on the polluted site.

So he was giving contract to mould One hundred thousand pieces of nine 9 inches blocks in the pollution site for the commencement of the project. The Chief Isaac O. Agbara went and moulded this blocks outside the pollution site and decided to convey them to the site but for the fact that he has been deposed, the new Paramount Ruler/Traditional Ruler in the person of Chief Hon. Peter N. Oguru and the community went and stopped some truck load of 9 inches blocks from entering into the pollution site until the community is finished or through with the matter in Court.

After that incident, no body sleeps again in Ejamah, everyday police arrests to Zone 6 today, next day to Force Headquarters, Agbara and Anti-kidnapping, Anti-cultism, Commissioner of Police, Moscow Road, State CID, Port Harcourt and deaths occurring here and there.

Shell became so very desperate to erect something on the site to use that to defend their saga commitment and agreement with the community.

When your matter is in Court and you went behind to negotiate with Shell on the matter before Court, it’s subject to contempt of Court. So, the Court will vehemently throw our matter out on any available charges on discharge and acquitting Shell.

We view the conspiracy and betrayal as absurd and unacceptable. This reaction from Shell is to tell you how disappointed they are. They have earlier on defended themselves that they don’t have anything to do with clean up in Ejamah that they have clean up Ejamah.

The question is where, when and how did they clean up Ejamah? Will that clean-up be sustained affect the case in Court?

Can they be exonerated from the degradation, destruction of the ecosystem and aquatic lives and general contamination of the entire environment?

Who owns the properties involved in the pollution? What polluted the Ejamah Community, is it the underground water, rain water or what? Who constructed the pipelines that traverse Ejamah Community? For what purpose and what is contained in pipeline and where is it going to, who owns the properties”, he questioned.

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