By Uche Mbah
A Port Harcourt High Court presided over by Justice George Omeriji has sentenced Shell MD, Osagie Osunbor, Head, Legal, Nike Oyinola; and Deputy Country head, Legal and Managing Counsel, Litigation, Keibe Atemie, to three months imprisonment with hard labour. He has directed law enforcement agents to arrest them and send them to prison for contempt of court.
But Shell Petroleum Development Company, (SPDC), immediately challenged the order while insisting that they have tremendous respect for the Nigerian legal system. As far as they are concerned, there is no disobedient of any lawful court in any part of Nigeria.
“We do not accept that SPDC has disobeyed any lawful court order and we have accordingly appealed this judgement,” Bamidele Odugbesan, the company’s spokesperson, said on behalf of the accused persons. “SPDC has utmost respect for the courts and the laws of Nigeria.”
Trouble had started when some Bonny indigenes of Rivers State prayed the court to commit the SPDC officers to prison. They cited the disobedience a High Court Order ten years ago, when the Bonny elders requested that Shell should forfeit a landed property where they built one of Nigeria’s biggest oil terminals, Bonny Oil Terminal. It was on the strength of that plea that Justice Omeriji pronounced his sentence.
The Federal Government owns 55% of that Oil Terminal, which is fed from multinationals and local companies through Trans Niger Pipeline and Nembe Creek Trunk line.
“We have appealed against the order and applied to suspend its execution pending the outcome of the appeal,” Odugbesan said.
According to him, SPDC and the landlord families has settled the case between them in 2014.
“An amicable resolution and settlement agreement was signed by the parties in 2014 after which SPDC paid all the rents due on the land up to 2019,” he said, adding that a paid public notice by the landlord families in the October 24, 2014 edition of the Guardian newspaper acknowledges the settlement with SPDC.