File photo: SPDC men on spill site in Niger Delta
Warri- The lingering legal tussle between the Odimodi federated communities and Mobil company has turned a new twist after a federal High court in Warri last week made judgement in favour of the plaintiff, Odimodi/Forcados federated communities, asking Mobil company to pay the sum of N1.430 billion as part of compensation for damage over spill to the affected communities in 1998 in Burutu LGA of Delta State.
But Mobil Company through its counsel had appealed judgement to appeal court, describing the judgement unfavourable. Although the aggrieved communities had spoken through their counsel Barr. Pere-ebibo Cinema Fufeyin that his clients had decided to resort to self-help as evidences have shown that Mobil company had deliberately refused to compensate the communities, except the federal Government prevail on the company to pay the compensation to the affected communities as directed by the federal court. Adding that his clients had complained of no resources to run the case any longer.
Lask week, Honourable Justice Shitu Abubakar in federal high court Warri, on the 11th January, 2018 after about seventeen years protracted legal tussle had made final judgment in favour of the affected communities in judgement N0.FCH/WR/30/2013 and suit N0. FCH/WR/CS/33/20
Court Okays N1.430 billion affected communities compensation against Mobil
Parts of Justice Abubakar’s judgement read ‘‘Finally, I agree with the plaintiffs’ counsel that the plaintiffs have proved their case against the defendant on preponderance of evidence as required by S.137 of evidence Act, 2011. Accordingly. I enter judgement in favour of the plaintiffs and against the defendant as per the plaintiff’s Writ of summons. For avoidance of doubt, I order the defendant to pay to the plaintiffs as follow;
‘‘a. N980,000,000,00( Nine hundred and eighty million naira) being fair and adequate compensation due and payable to the Odimodi federated communities for injurious effect, ecological damages, loss of means of livelihood and damage to fishing creeks, rivers, lakes, ponds, grounds, streams, mangrove swamps, farmlands, economic trees and health hazards emanating directly from and intimately connected with the defendant’s IDOHO 24 burst oil pipeline spillage of 12 January, 1999 as per recommendation by expert valuation’’ the judgement said.
The judge further asked the company to pay the affected communities the sum of N450,000,000,00 (Four hundred and fifty million naira) being fair and adequate compensation for the said affected communities on loss of livelihood and ecological damages injurious to them.
It also directed Mobile Company to make payment ‘‘Having regard to the devaluation of the nation’s currency from 1999 to date by the internal foreign exchange market forces, I order the defendant to pay the plaintiffs post judgment interest at 10% on the total judgment sum from today until the judgment is fully satisfied’’
Barr. Fufeyin lauds court judgment
Fufeyin reacts to court judgment
Reacting to the judgment, counsel to the Odimodi and Forcados federated communities Barr. Pere-ebi Cinema Fufeyin, today in Warri at Wetland Hotel (Thursday) speaking on behalf of his clients, in Warri with select journalists, commended the judgment and described it as hope for oil producing communities in Niger Delta against the oppressors and multinational oil companies operating in Niger Delta region.
Barr.Fufeyin who was flanked by the spokesman Odimodi community, Mr. Harison O.Abgeyama, Prince Presley Iyalagha, Mr. Kingsley Ikiere, Chief Balebo Chester and Barr. Eric Omare, National President Ijaw youths Council (IYC), said ‘‘The Mobil company is oppressing his clients by delaying the court judgement for about seventeen years. Until victory finally came to my clients on the 1th January, 2018 through strenuous litigation. We have been rigorously pursuing this injustice since 1999. Instead of paying my clients as being granted by the federal high court Warri, Mobil company is using delay tactics because the resources to hire the best lawyers in the world to frustrate my clients from being paid. They (referring to Mobi company) have appealed the good judgement to appeal court in Abuja in order to deliberately avoid the compensation’’
Fufeyin said that in 1998, the Idoho pipeline operated by Mobil company ruptured in Akwa-Ibom state which the spill spread to coastal states in about seven coastal states which adversely affected. The Odimiodi community wrote to the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on the spill which SPDC carried out a test and confirmed that the spill belonged to Mobil company.
According to him, SPDC contacted Mobil and environmental assessment of level of damage was conducted which at the end of evaluation, Mobil in 1999 made a compensation of N50,000,000 (Fifty million) to all the affected individual persons of farmers and fishermen and women. That individual person was paid N20,000 from the N50,000,000 total compensation.
Bone of contention: N1.430 billion as compensation
The counsel to the Odimodi/Forcados federated communities said that the communities which have general ownership of the lands and rivers made a separate demand to be paid with the N1.430 billion as compensation for ecological damages, sacred lands and rivers caused by the pollution caused by the spill.
He asserted that in 1999, Mobil through the former Chairperson of Burutu Local Government council Mrs Orounagha Felicia made a cheque payment to the Odimodi/Forcados communities as land ownership compensation of damage caused by the spill. But according to him, the community leadership rejected the N50,000,000 compensation paid in cheque which was returned to Mobil.
He said the communities rejected the paltry compensation because the company was playing on the intelligence of the communities by sending sum meagre amount of compensation to the owners of the said land being destroyed by the spill.
SPDC role in the Mobil spill and faulty clean-up exercise
Barr, Fufeyin said the SPDC in a letter dated 22nd January 1998 addressed to the then military administrator of Delta state and copied the Burutu local Government council administration, informing the government of their readiness to carry out a voluntary clean-up exercise on behalf of the spill company Mobi. The letter reads in parts ‘‘ The Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria limited is helping and clean up an oil spill from offshore Mobil pipeline that has hit the coast of Delta state. SPDC has mobilized booms and equipment to try to keep away from communities and company facilities in Forcados areas.
‘‘ The spill which occurred near Eket on January 12th was reported to the closing on the company’s Forcados Terminal yesterday afternoon by Odimodi community’’ The letter was signed by Acting general manager of SPDC West ern operations.
The counsel accused SPDC of paying a high service to secure the confidence of the government at that time without proper clean up exercise. He said SPDC actually hired some workers with buckets and shovels scoping parts of the spilled oil around the seashore within some coastal communities and left, leaving the chemical substances behind in the river and lands which caused more havoc to the coastal communities after that major spill recorded in Nigeria.
Strange ailments/infant/adult mortality resulted from spill in coastal communities
According to him, since the spill in seventeen years, there has been a strange ailment in the region which has resulted to infant and adult mortality as well as frequent epidemic outbreak in the affected communities in Niger Delta communities, especially the coastal communities who live by the seashore.
We have spent over N50million in pursuing justice; we have no money and will resort to self-help.
Speaking on behalf of the affected communities at the media briefing, Mr. Harrison Okayan Ageyama, spokesman of the Odimodi/Forcados federated communities has revealed that over seventeen years since the Mobil spill,” We went to court to seek for justice, until judgment was made in Federal high court in Warri, the communities have spent over N50 million from contributions from individual purses to service the case. Now, Mobil company instead of paying our compensation, they decided to appeal the case to appeal court because they have money to hire lawyers. We will no longer go to appeal court with them and that at this point, we will resort to self-help. I am appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on Mobil to pay the affected communities the court ruled amount, if not we will have no option than to employ every useful means to seek for justice within our reach’’ he said.
IYC National President Barr. Omare urges federal government intervention
IYC urges FG to intervene in the matter to maintain the existing peace in Niger Delta
The National President of the Ijaw youths council, world-wide, Barr, Eric Omare who was in the media briefing has appealed to the President Muhammadu Buhari to look into the matter to resolve it without allowing it to degenerate to a higher level. He commended the Ijaw communities by employing legal means in seeking for justice for about seventeen years in court with a multinational oil company, spending so many resources without employing violent means.
He appealed to the affected communities to maintain the peace in their area and that federal Government would look into the matter.
He said ‘‘ The Odimodi communities are co-owners of the Forcados terminal and that anything concerning these communities should be looked into immediately before it escalates to further security dimension of community versus oil company crisis which will have adverse effect on the economy of the country’’