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[Oil spillage]: Supreme Court urged to reject bid to set aside N17bn judgment

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Supreme Court was yesterday urged to reject request by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited to review and set aside a N17billion judgement entered against it last year.

The Supreme Court had in January 11, 2019, upheld the judgement of the Court of Appeal which slammed a whopping N17billion damages against the oil giant for oil spillage in Ejama-Ebubu in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The plea is contained in a preliminary objection filed by Chief Isaac Agbara and nine others to the application by Shell asking the apex court to set aside its earlier judgment in the matter.

The respondents, arguing the preliminary objection yesterday through their lead counsel, Chief Lucius Nwosu (SAN), described Shell’s request as scandalous and an affront to the finality of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Nwosu, while urging the court to dismiss Shell’s application for being incompetent, submitted that the Supreme Court cannot sit on appeal in its own judgment.   He further argued that the action of the oil giant was a deliberate abuse of court process with a weighty request based on 23 grounds.

Nwosu further contended that the Supreme Court by its unanimous judgement of January 11 last year put an end to the over 30 years old legal tussle on the oil spillage suffered by the respondents and their people in the oil producing region, drawing the attention of the panel to a letter of the Supreme Court in which the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, while reacting to the January 11, 2019, judgement, made it clear that the appeal by Shell had become spent.

He further informed the court that the judgement being sought to be set aside had already been partly executed with over N1billion recovered by the respondents, adding that section 235 of the 1999 Constitution makes the Supreme Court the final court in the land and that no appeal could be entertained from the Supreme Court decision.

He therefore pleaded with the apex court to reject the invitation by Shell Company.

But Shell Petroleum Company, through its team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), described the opposition of the respondents as frivolous because it had no bearing with jurisdictional issue.

Olanipekun contended that what the respondents tagged a judgment was a ruling and not a final judgment.

He submitted that Shell’s request has a judicial precedence, adding that the oil giant would not have come back to the Supreme Court to seek for review of its judgment if there was no precedent.

He faulted the claim that the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in its January 11, 2019, decision, arguing that there cannot be a dismissal when a matter had not been heard on merit, and therefore pleaded with the apex court to dismiss the preliminary objection to its client’s application for judgment review.

The five-man panel led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, after listening to the submissions of parties, adjourned to November 27, 2020, for ruling.

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