Judiciary

Oil Debt: Court To Resume Hearing of Nigerian Govt’s $406.8m Suit

A Federal High Court in Lagos will on Jan. 23, 2018, resume hearing of a $406.8 million suit instituted by the Federal Government against Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd, over crude oil shipment.

The suit numbered FHC/L/CS/336/16 was filed by Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), counsel to the Federal Government.

It has as defendants: Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. and its subsidiary, Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd.

The suit, which was billed for continuation of hearing, was stalled following the absence of the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.

Consequently, the continuation of hearing will resume on Jan. 23, 2018.

Similarly, two sister cases before the same court involving the Federal Government and Agip as well as the Federal Government and Chevron, which were earlier slated for hearing on Nov.20 , were also adjourned until Jan. 23, 2018.

In the suit against Shell Western Supply, the plaintiff, ,Federal Government, is claiming the sum of $406.8 million from the defendants, which represent the shortfall of money paid into the Federal Government’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The money was said to be for crude oil lifted in 2013 and 2014.

In a supporting affidavit, the Federal Government had accused the Anglo-Dutch company of not declaring or under-declaring crude oil shipments during the period.

It said that this was discovered following forensic analysis of bills of laden and shipping documents, adding that Shell cheated Nigeria of the revenue.

According to the affidavit, the consortium of experts tracked the global movements of the country’s hydro-carbons, including crude oil and gas.

They identified the companies engaged in the practices that led to missing revenues from crude oil and gas export sales to different parts of the world.

They also revealed discrepancies in the export records from Nigeria with the import records at U.S. ports.

Plaintiff averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire shortfall to $406.75 million.

The defendants were said to have failed to respond to a Federal Government’s letter through its legal representative, seeking clarifications as to the discrepancies.

The Federal Government is, therefore, seeking a court order to compel the two companies to pay $406.8 million, being the total value of the missing revenue and interest at 21 per cent per annum.

In addition, the government is also asking Shell to pay general exemplary damages in the sum of $406.75 million as well as the cost of the legal action.

The Federal Government had also sued Chevron, Total and Agip, in similar circumstances.

The Federal Government is asking for a total of $12.7 billion over alleged non-declaration of 57 million barrels of crude shipped to the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.

The oil companies are among 15 oil majors targeted by the government for the recovery of $17 billion in deprived revenue.

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