A High Court Sitting in Port Harcourt has sentenced the managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited (SPDC), Mr Osaghie Okungbo and two other top officials of the oil firm to three months in imprisonment with hard labour for contempt.
Those sentenced to prison alongside the SPDC boss in contempt proceedings are, Company Secretary and Head of Legal, Nike Oyinlola, as well as Deputy Country Head of Legal/Managing Counsel, Global Litigation, sub-Sahara Africa, Keibi Atemie.
Delivering Judgement yesterday, the presiding Judge, Justice George Omereji said the three persons were convicted for refusing to obey a court order granted in 2008 instructing them to forfeit land where Bonny Crude Oil Terminal is located.
According to Justice Omereji, the Court order was given ten years ago by Justice Margareth Opara of the Rivers State High Court.
In his ruling on the matter yesterday, Justice Omereji dismissed a motion of notice by counsel to Shell and its three officials seeking to set aside the court order of July 25, 2018 that grant leave to the landlords to serve substituted means of notice of consequence of disobedience of court order in the suit upon the oil firm.
After hearing the submissions of Lucius Nwosu (SAN), Emmanuel Asido counsels to the Bonny landlords and Thompson J Okpoko (SAN), counsel to Shell officials, he declared Okunbor, Olafimihan and Atemie’s committal was for refusal to obey the order of Justice Opara to forfeit the Bonny terminal to the landlords.
It was gathered that the said land belongs to the Jumbo Major House in Bonny and the Brown House of Finima in Bonny local government area of Rivers state.
Though the convicted Shell officials were not in Court, Justice Omereji ordered the police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest and send them to prison.
The Jumbo and Bonny House had approached the Court in suit no: PHC/1956/2007 complaining the tenancy and compensation for their land. It was also gathered that Justice Opara had in 2008 directed that Shell should give up the Bonny terminal for violating the terms of tenancy and surreptitiously obtaining a certificate of occupancy from the then government of Rivers state.
Reacting to the ruling, SPDC spokesperson, Bamidele Odukpeso said the oil will appeal against the judgement because it does not accept that it has disobeyed any court order. He said the landlord families settled with SPDC in 2014 and collected all rents due on the land up to 2019 as publicly declared by the landlord families on page 14 of the Guardian Newspaper edition of Sunday, August 24, 2014. Mr Odugbesan said the company has utmost respect for the courts and the laws of the country.