The Supreme Court was on Tuesday urged to reject a request by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited to review and set aside a N17 billion judgment entered against it last year.
The apex court had, on January 11, 2019, upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal which had awarded N17 billion damages against the oil company for oil spillage in Ejama-Ebubu in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The request was contained in a preliminary objection filed by Chief Isaac Agbara and nine others to the application by Shell asking the apex court to set aside its earlier judgment in the matter.
The respondents, through their lead counsel, Chief Lucius Nwosu (SAN), described Shell’s request as scandalous and an affront to the finality of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Nwosu, while urging the court to dismiss Shell’s application for being incompetent, submitted that the Supreme Court cannot sit on appeal in its own judgment.
He further argued that the action of the oil giant was a deliberate abuse of the court process.
Nwosu contended that the Supreme Court, by its unanimous judgment of January 11, 2019, put an end to the over 30 years old legal tussle on the oil spillage suffered by the respondents and their people in the oil-producing zone of the country.
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Nwosu drew the attention of the court to a letter of the Supreme Court in which the current Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, while reacting to clarification to the January 11, 2019 judgment, made it clear that the appeal by Shell Petroleum had become spent.
He further informed the court that the judgment being sought to be set aside by the oil company had already been partly executed with over N1 billion recovered by the respondents, adding that section 235 of the 1999 Constitution makes the Supreme Court a final court in the land and that no appeal can be entertained from the Supreme Court decision.
He, therefore, pleaded with the apex court to reject the invitation by Shell oil company to make the court sit as an appellate court in its own judgment so as not to make the court eat its words.
Nwosu noted that the same Shell oil that is reluctant to pay damages to Nigerian victims of its oil spillage had in similar situation pay over $206 million to victims in Mexico.
But, Shell Petroleum company, through its team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), described the opposition of the respondents as frivolous because it has no bearing with the jurisdictional issue.
Olanipekun contended that what the respondents tagged a judgment was a ruling and not a final judgment and submitted that Shell’s request has judicial precedence, adding that the oil company would not have come back to the Supreme Court to seek for review of its judgment if there was no precedent.
He faulted the claim that the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in its January 11, 2019 decision, arguing that there cannot be a dismissal when a matter had not been heard on merit.
Olanipekun then pleaded with the apex court to dismiss the preliminary objection to its client’s application for judicial review.
The five-man panel of Justices of the apex court, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, after listening to the submissions of parties to the preliminary objection adjourned till November 27, 2020, for a ruling.