Bidere community vindicated, as Court slams Shell N5.5billion fine  

Solomon Ezeme

The Appeal Court in Port Harcourt has upheld the judgement of a lower court in a case which vindicated Sakpa family of Bidere community in Ogoniland, River State over environmental damages done to their farm land as a result of spillage due to exploration activities by Shell Petroleum Development Company SDPC.

The litigation which lasted for over a period of 22 years was finally resolved by the verdict of Justice Abimbola Adegbehingbe, of the Appeal Court,  who ruled in favour of the claimants and asked the major oil company to pay N5.5billion as damages.

EnergyDay gathered that the oil spill on the over 27 hectares farmland ruined the livelihoods and quality of life of residents of the area, as well as fishermen and farmers in neighbouring communities.

Justice Adegbehingbe in the judgement ordered Shell to pay the sum of N5.5bn to the claimant as damages with an additional N2.5m as legal expenses.

The judge struck Shell’s appeal out, noting that it lacked competence.

Check by EnergyDay revealed that the case first started in 2005 at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, but was later moved to the Federal High Court, Uyo in Akwa Ibom State, due to the transfer of the trial judge.

Shell was later asked to pay a N5.5bn compensation to the claimant in a 2009 judgement.

Shell, however, took the case to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt rejected it. The apex court however told the oil major to go back to the appellate court which finally ruled on the case in February 2022.

Kamesuode Wodu, Counsel to the Sapka family, while speaking on behalf of the claimant after the victory, said that the pollution of the farmland belonging to the Sapkas also affected other residents of Bidere community who, according to him, are predominantly farmers.

He explained that the Bidere people have continued to bear the negative impacts of polluted farmland on their health and businesses for 22 years due to the crude oil operations of Shell in their community.

Wodu said, “For 22 years, over 27 hectares of land was polluted. That is the main source of livelihood for the Bidere people. They have been suffering uptil today.

“Finally, we have a judgement in favour of the Sapka family.”

One of the community leaders of the Bidere people, while applauding the judiciary for its ruling in favour of the Sapka family, said the International Oil Company (IOC) had earlier refused to pay for the damages, neglecting the Federal High Court’s order in the course of the legal battle which began in 2005.

He further stated that the community will not let go of the compensation as it is already making plans to get the stated amount from the oil company.

“The Federal High Court awarded the Sapka family N5.5bn and also, another N2.5m as cost. But the money is yet to be paid to us despite the existing Garnishee order against them (Shell).

“Since they have lost the bill today, we will pursue the Garnishee order and get that money back to the Sapka family,” he said.

OML 11, was one of Shell’s most prolific onshore assets and it is about the largest in size and production volume. It is situated in the heart of the Bidere community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Shell Petroleum has been embroiled in disputes with Host communities over environmental degradation issues which culminated in the death of Ken Saro Wiwa, Nigeria’s celebrated Human right activist.

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