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Shell vs Senate: Court strikes out case over incompetence

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A multinational oil and gas company, the Shell Development Company (SPDC) has lost a case it instituted against the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and several Niger Delta Host Communities at an Abuja Federal High Court on Thursday.

Justice A.R. Mohammed who presided over the matter with Suit Number
FHC/ABJ/CS/423/2019 between SPDC Vs. Senate and the agents representing the host communities, Parsley Consults Ltd. and Emagu Nigeria Ltd. threw out
the case because SPDC failed to issue the mandatory statutory pre-action notice on the Senate before instituting the action.

The multinational had brought that suit to challenge a Senate Resolution made that SPDC should harmonize its discriminatory compensations on Surface Rights to host communities, some of which they paid at the rate of N600,000 per hectare while at the exact same time paying others at the rate of N200,000 per hectare.

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Meanwhile, the oil company had been relying on the pendency of that suit to ignore invitations by the National Assembly over other matters on the ground that the suit concerns the powers of the National Assembly to carry out legislative investigations. The counsel to the agents of the host communities,
Chibuzor Obiajunwa, Esq while reacting to the judgement frowned at the oil company getting itself involved in discriminatory compensations on Surface
Rights to host communities.

The Senate Resolution arose from a Public Petition laid at Plenary on the 25th day of October, 2017 by Senator Matthew Urhoghide representing Edo South
Senatorial District at the 8th Assembly.

The petition had then been referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions for legislative investigation.

The multinational had also been relying on the pendency of that suit to absolve itself of the responsibility of working in line with the consequential resolution
of the Senate despite demonstrations of the host communities at the National
Assembly and at its Abuja office and demands having been made to it for compliance by the office of the Solicitor-General of the Federation.

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Meanwhile in a letter issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation dated 19th July, 2019 which was addressed to the Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited titled: “Re-Demand to give effect to Resolution Regarding the discriminatory Land Re-acquisition fees and Rentals in the Niger Delta and Likely Repercussions arising therefrom”, the letter put the oil giant on notice on for its failure to give effect to Senate resolution dated 24th January, 2021 saying, it amounted to sabotaging government’s effort.

Part of the letter which was obtained by CAPITAL POST in Abuja reads: “The attention of this office has been drawn to the resolution of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the National Assembly, Abuja dated 24th January, 2019.

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“It equally brought to the attention of this office that your organisation is yet to give effect to the said resolution to the detriment of the affected Niger Delta communities despite several demands.

“Consequently you are by this letter requested to within three weeks of the receipt of this letter immediately comply with the resolution of the Senate of the National Assembly made on the 24th day of January 2019 to the effect that the sum of Six billion, Nine Thousand, Nine Hundred (N6,936,899,900) only being the total outstanding amount for all unpaid rentals, expired leases and re-acquisition fees with immediate effect to Parsely Consults Limited and Emagu Nigeria Limited.

The Office of the Solicitor-General in the letter urged SPDC to show evidence of compliance which it failed to do, but rather resorted to Court action.

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