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Shell MD Bags 3 Months For Contempt Of Court

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A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, has sentenced the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), Mr Osagie Okunbor and two others to three months in prison with hard labour.

Those sentenced to prison alongside the SPDC boss in a contempt proceedings are Shell’s Secretary and Head of Legal, Nike Oyinlola and the Deputy Country Head of Legal/Managing Counsel Global Litigation, Sub-Sahara Africa, Keibi Atemie.

Delivering judgement in Suit No: PHC/1929/218, the presiding judge, Hon. Justice George Omereji, convicted the Shell officials for disobeying an Order of Court made  by Hon. Justice Margaret Opara of the Rivers State High Court, in 2008, asking multinational oil firm to forfeit the land where the Bonny Crude Oil Terminal is located, said to belong to the Jumbo Major House of Bonny and the Brown House of Finima, both in Bonny, Rivers State.

The aforementioned families who are landlords of Shell in Bonny had gone to court in Suit No: PHC/1956/2007, over the tenancy and compensation for the land in which then Military Government of Rivers State had spuriously issued a Certificate of Occupancy to Shell.

Justice Opara had ordered that Shell should forfeit the Bonny Terminal, where about 30% of the Nigeria’s crude is exported from, for breach of terms of its tenancy by going behind the landlords to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy from the Government of Rivers State for the land. About 30 per cent of the country’s crude is exported from the disputed land.

Dissatisfied by the lower court’s order to forfeit the Bonny Terminal land, Shell proceeded to the Court of Appeal, but lost the case for lack of merit. It later appealed to the Supreme Court and lost the case also.

Justice Omereji first dismissed a Motion of Notice by counsel to Shell and its three officials seeking to set aside the Order of the Court made on July 25, 2018 that grants leave to the landlords to serve substituted means of notice of consequence of disobedience of  Court Order in the suit upon the contemnor.

He declared after hearing the submissions of Lucius Nwosu (SAN), Emmanuel Asido counsels to the Bonny landlords and Thompson J Okpoko (SAN) counsel to the Shell officials, asserted that the committal of Okunbor, Olafimihan and Atemie was for refusal to obey the order of Justice Opara  to forfeit the Bonny terminal to the landlords.

The judge directed the Nigerian Police Force and other law enforcement to effect immediate arrest of the aforementioned Shell officials who were absent in court and send them to prison.

He declared that the sentence was necessitated by the need to ensure that the rule of law is maintained in the country.

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