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Court awards N82b damages against Mobil, NNPC over oil spills, neglect

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Oil spillage

The Federal High Court in Abuja has awarded N81.9 billion cumulative damages against Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and its joint venture (JC) partner, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In its ruling yesterday, Justice Taiwo Taiwo ordered the payment of the judgment sum within 14 days, after which 8 per cent interest would accrue to the principal sum yearly.

Delivering the judgment in joint suit instituted against the defendants, the court said the amount should be paid to the oil communities in Ibeno Council of Akwa Ibom State.

The judge held that Mobil and NNPC were negligent over the way and manner in which they handled oil spills that caused severe environmental degradation in the communities.

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Justice Taiwo particularly flayed the NNPC for being interested only in the revenue generated from the oil exploration at the expense of the people, communities and their livelihoods.

The court said it believed the oral and documentary evidence the plaintiffs submitted to support their claims that their lives were made miserable when their water and land were polluted through crude leakages from rusty oil pipelines.

He said the plaintiffs proved their case well enough for the court to consider their reliefs, noting that Mobil’s claimed that it cleaned up impacted environment, but failed to address compensation that would have mitigated the economic losses of fishermen and farmers.

The judge described witnesses called by Mobil as “unreliable,” adding that they became evasive without reasonable justification during cross- examination by counsel to the plaintiffs.

He advised professionals being summoned to testify in court to say things as they are, stressing that the court ware expected to learn from them in their area of specialty.

Specifically, the court held that the oral and documentary evidence Mobil tendered were not helpful to the court, as they were targeted at serving predetermined interests.

The judge further said some of the witnesses ought not to have come to the court at all going by the discrepancies in the documents brought to court, adding that they only embarked on an unreliable guess research.

The court further held that both Mobil and NNPC failed to visit locations of crude oil leakages that led to the contamination of Rivers, water bodies and creeks.

Justice Taiwo also rejected NNPC’s claims that the suit was statute-barred in 2012 when the plaintiffs filed it.

Citing section 11, subsection 5 of the Oil Pipelines Act, he explained that the law makes it mandatory for oil companies to monitor and fix their pipelines to avoid spillages and environmental degradation.

Consequently, he awarded N42.8 billion as damages for intangible losses, N21.9 billion for special damages as annotated and N10 billion as general damages.

Obong Effiong Archianga and nine others led the Ibeno communities in the suit instituted through their counsel, Chief Lucius Nwosu (SAN), against NNPC, Mobil and ExxonMobil Corporation seeking N100 billion compensation for economic losses suffered from oil spillages caused by the defendants exploration activities.

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