Barristers & Solicitors
N800bn Judgment: Shell MD, Others Risk Imprisonment for Contempt

The Court of Appeal in Owerri, the Imo State capital, has ordered the managing director and the other three management staff of Shell Petroleum Company to appear before it on March 29, 2022, to state cause why they should not be committed to prison for contempt of court.

Other members of the management staff of Shell ordered to appear before it included the Shell legal adviser, company secretary, and finance director.

The three-man appeal court presided over by Justice Rita Pemu expressed displeasure at the management of Shell for disobeying two court rulings against the company.

The Judge said Shell had disobeyed the lower court ruling, and they ran to the appellate court while also ruled that Shell should deposit the N800 billion against it to the court of appeal hidden account, still the company disobeyed the ruling.

However, counsel to Shell, Chief J.J. Onanigbo Okpoko (SAN), said his client would appeal the ruling.

Shell had applied for motion seeking an order to stay execution of the Federal High Court judgment in appeal number CA/OW/498/20 and appeal number CA/OW/490/20 respectively.

On the other hand, counsel to first to 88th respond-ents, Mohammed Ndarant Mohammed (SAN), prayed the court to ignore the motion for an order staying execution, and urged the court to mandate the appellants to deposit the money in an interest account pending the final determination of the appeal.

Mohammed also raised the fears that the appellants were preparing to close shop in Nigeria and relocate to another country which would jeopardise the judgment if nothing was done.

THISDAY had previously reported that the Owerri Appeal Court had ordered Shell to deposit N800 billion (about $2billion) in 48 hours over alleged oil spillage.

This comes after Shell appealed a November 2020 Federal High Court ruling that ordered Shell to pay N800 billion to 88 communities of Egbalor Ebubu in Rivers State, which had accused the company of an oil spill that damaged their farms and waterways.

The three-man panel had on March 14  ordered Shell Plc to stop selling any assets in Nigeria until a decision is reached on its appeal of the nearly $2 billion penalty.

The Judges said Shell, acting through its agents or subsidiaries, was restrained from “selling, allocating, vandalising or disposing off any of its assets/property …” pending the determination of the appeal.

Okpoko said: “We are disappointed at this outcome. We have a strong belief in the merit of our case, and will take immediate steps under the law to appeal and stay the execution of the decision until the appeal is determined.”

Shell started talks with the Nigerian Government last year about selling its stake in Nigeria’s onshore fields, where it has been active since the 1930s, as part of a global drive to reduce its carbon emissions.

Representative of the communities, Mr. Johnson Emere Mba-Ngei, who is also the leader of Alliance for the Defence of Elements, said they were happy with the ruling.

Culled from ThisDay