Shell moves to recover frozen bank accounts
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has said it is working to secure expeditious discharge of court order freezing its accounts, which was obtained by AITEO Eastern (E&P) Company Limited.
AITEO had sought an ex-parte order from a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos for an injunction directing 20 commercial banks to block accounts of SPDC and affiliates of the Royal Dutch Shell company operating in Nigeria in a bid to recover cash value of more than 16 million barrels of crude allegedly diverted by the oil giant.
Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo gave the order in suit no FHC/L/CS/52/2021, directing the 20 banks where Shell companies operate accounts in Nigeria to “ring-fence any cash, bonds, deposits and all forms of negotiable instruments.”
The court directed the banks to pay all standing credits to the Shell companies up to the value into an interest yielding account in the name of chief registrar of the court, who is to hold the funds in trust pending hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed before it by AITEO.
AITEO, alongside some other indigenous oil producers, have alleged that Shell short-changed them using the unapproved methodology to calculate the volume of crude it lifts on their behalf from the terminal.
In its reaction, Shell stated: “It is important to note that the claims underpinning the interim freeze order obtained by the plaintiff, Aiteo Eastern E&P Company Limited, relate to sale of the interests of SPDC and two other SPDC JV partners in the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) and OML 29 to Aiteo in 2015, and crude reallocation programme between injectors into the SPDC JV’s Trans Niger Pipeline and injectors into Aiteo’s NCTL, which is a normal industry practice.
“The disputes are subject of ongoing litigation and SPDC is working to secure an expeditious discharge of the freezing injunction which we believe was obtained by Aiteo without any valid basis.
“The crude theft/diversion allegation is also factually incorrect. This is a distinct issue that relates to the directive by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to SPDC as operator of the Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal, an asset belonging to the SPDC Joint Venture, to implement a crude re-allocation programme between injectors into the SPDC JV’s Trans Niger Pipeline and injectors into the NCTL,” Shell said in a statement by its Media Relations Manager, Bamidele Odugbesan.
The Dutch oil firm explained that “crude allocation review and re-allocation is a normal industry practice to re-allocate previous provisional allocated volumes under the directive and supervision of DPR, and this is not an exercise resulting from crude diversion, underreporting or theft at the terminal.
“This industry practice is not peculiar to the SPDC-operated Bonny Oil and Gas Terminal alone and does not translate into any loss of volumes to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”