By Egufe Yafugborhi, Port-Harcourt
Rivers State Government on Wednesday declared possession and sealed off oil assets loaded Kidney Island, once the operational base of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Port Harcourt.
But Osagie Okunbor, Managing Director, SPDC and Country Chair of Shell Companies in Nigeria, in response dismissed the State Government’s action, describing it as “premature and unlawful”
Rivers Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Zaccheus Adangor, SAN, led the sealing of the Kidney Island in said execution of the judgement of the Rivers State High Court.
Adangor emphasised that the action was in the enforcement of Rivers Government interest in the acquisition of 45 per cent equity stake in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 and the Kidney Island.
He stated, “Accordingly, Kidney Island, once Shell operational base, now belongs to Rivers State Government pursuant to a certificate of purchase registered in the Lands Registry as No. 6 at page 6 in Vol. 46, Port Harcourt.
“The certificate of purchase was issued by the order of the High Court of Rivers State on July 23, 2019, and September 25, 2019, following the purchase of the facility.”
“Supreme Court had November 2020, reaffirmed Rivers Government acquisition of SPDC interest in OML11and Kidney Island when it dismissed the oil firm’s suit which sought to set aside the judgment made against it in 2019 in favour of Ejama-Ebubu community.
“Sometime in 2017, the people of Ejama-Ebubu secured a judgement against SPDC and its subsidiaries in the sum of N57.7Billion Naira for the damages done to their environment arising from the oil spill from the Trans-Niger pipeline.
“After that judgement, Shell refused to pay the judgement sum and thereafter proceeded to levy execution by attaching the moveable properties of SPDC. But those were found to be grossly insufficient to settle the judgement sum.
“Subsequently, they (Ejama-Ebubu community) approached the court to seek to leave to attach the immovable properties of SPDC and the court granted them that order. Following that, there was a court order for sell of some of the properties of SPDC including Kidney Island and the acquisition of Shell interest in OML 11.”
Adangor said after the court order, a public auction was held by the officers of the Rivers State Judiciary and the State Government bided successfully for the purchase of Kidney Island and Shell interest in OML 11.
“So we are here to execute the judgement of the High Court of Rivers State and secure the enforcement of the interest acquired by the Rivers State Government.
“It was lawfully purchased through public auction ordered by the court pursuant to a court judgement, hence everything went in accordance with the due process of the law.
“The Rivers State Government successfully executed the enforcement and in fairness to Shell, there was no resistance during the exercise.”
Livinus Akere of the Office of the Deputy Sheriff, High Court, Port Harcourt, said the exercise was to take vacant possession of Kidney Island auctioned on the 13 August 2019 and OML 11 in Ejama Community of Eleme Local Government Area.
Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, had September 2019, announced Rivers state acquisition of SPDC 45% interest in OML 11 oilfields and the Kidney Island.
The governor following a court order to auction SPDC assets in the suit against Ejama-Ebubu community had directed the Rivers State Ministry of Finance Incorporated to make a bid of USD 150,000,0900.00 supported by a Bank Guarantee and cash payment to the Deputy Sheriff in the sum of N1 billion, the later payable to the Judgement Creditors while the former is escrowed.