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Court awards N81.9bn damages against Mobil, NNPC over oil spillage

Chinazor Megbolu

A Federal High Court in Abuja has awarded N81.9 billion damages against Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited over oil spillage.

The court ordered the two organisations to pay N81.9 billion as damages to communities in Ibeno LGA of Akwa Ibom State.
The court, on Monday, awarded the sum of N42.8 billion as damages for intangible losses, N21.9 billion for special damages as annotated and N10 billion as general damages.
In his judgment, the Judge, Mr. Taiwo Taiwo, mandated them to pay the communities within 14 days of the judgment.
He noted that failure to make payment on the said date would attracts eight per cent interest on the principal sum yearly.
In the suit, which was instituted against the two defendants by the aggrieved oil-producing communities led by Mr. Obong Effiong Archianga and 9 others through their lawyers, Lucius Nwosu, sought about N100 billion compensation for economic losses suffered from oil spillages caused by the defendants during exploration.
Taiwo held that the negligence of Mobil and NNPC caused environmental degradation in the communities.
He also accused NNPC of only having interest in the revenue generations from the oil exploration at the expense of the people’s lives in the communities.
Taiwo, however, noted that he believed the oral and documentary evidence adduced by the plaintiffs to support their claims that lives were made miserable for them when their water and land were polluted through crude oil leakages from old oil pipelines.
He posited the claims of Mobil that it did clean up exercises and held that the oil giant didn’t address the compensation that would have mitigated the economic losses of the people said to be mainly fishermen and farmers.
The judge also described witnesses called by Mobil as unreliable, saying that for no reason they became evasive during cross-examination by counsel to the plaintiffs.
Taiwo added that the oral and documentary evidence produced by Mobil Company were not in any way helpful to the court as they were targeted at serving predetermined interest.
Taiwo also averred that some of the witnesses ought not to have come to the court at all going by the discrepancies in the documents brought to the court, adding that they only embarked on guess research that was not reliable.
He further held that both Mobil and NNPC were negligent by their failure to visit places of the leakages of the crude oil that led to the contamination of rivers and creeks.
He further rejected the claims of the Mobil joint venture partner, NNPC, that the suit was statute barred in 2012 when the aggrieved plaintiffs filed it.
The NNPC had claimed that the suit was not filed within 12 months by the plaintiffs as required by the provision of Section 12, Sub Section 1 of the NNPC Act, 2004.

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