Members of the Ejalawa Community in Oken Ogosu Swamp farmlands in Egbalor, Ebubu/Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, have approached the Owerri Division of the Court of Appeal for an Order of committal to prison of the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and country Chairman, Shell Companies in Nigeria, Shell Petroleum Developing Company of Nigeria; Mr. Osagie Okunbor over alleged disobedience of the orders of the Court.
Shell and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had approached the Court of Appeal to reverse the judgment of a trial court that ordered them to pay the sum of over N800 billion as compensation to the communities for devastation caused the community as a result of oil spillage.
But the appellate court, however, in its judgment delivered on March 11, 2022, ordered Shell to deposit the said judgment sum into the interest yielding account of the Court of Appeal within 48 hours of the judgment.
The order expired on Tuesday March 15, 2022, without the appellants complying with the order of the appellate court.
Miffed by the refusal of Shell to obey the orders of court, the community has approached the court for an order seeking the committal of the MD and three others to prison.
They are: Shell’s Country Legal Counsel, Mrs. Keibi Atemie; Shell Africa/ Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Head of Corporate Litigation, Ikechukwu Ekwueme and Shell’s Finance Director, Mr. Jan Van Bunnik.
The plaintiffs, Chief Isaac Torchi and 87 on behalf of themselves and the Ejalawa Community in the originating summons filed by their lawyers led by Ndarani Mohammed, SAN, are specifically asking the court for an order “committing” Okunbor, Atemie, Ekwueme and Bunnik, 1st to 4th Contemnor, respectively “to prison for contempt for disobeying the Orders of this Court made on March 11, 2022”.
In addition, they prayed for another order compelling the four Contemnors, to deposit their respective international passports with the Court to restrain them from evading or escaping contempt proceedings.