By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Supreme Court was yesterday, asked to discountenance a request by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited to review and set aside a N17 billion judgment entered against it last year.
On January 11, 2019, the Apex court upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal which awarded N17 billion damages against Shell BP for oil spillage in Ejama-Ebubu in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The respondents, Chief Isaac Agbara and nine others, had in a preliminary objection, urged the Apex court not to grant the application by Shell asking the it to set aside its earlier judgment in the matter.
Arguing the preliminary objection, yesterday, 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.
He submitted that the Apex court cannot sit on appeal in its own judgement.
The senior lawyer further argued that the action of the oil giant was a deliberate abuse of court process with a weighty request based on 23 grounds.
Nwosu further contended that the Supreme Court by its unanimous judgment of January 11 last year 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 region.
Nwosu drew the attention of the apex court panel to a letter of the Supreme Court in which the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, while reacting to a 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 company to make the court sit as an appellate court in its own judgment so as not to make the court eat its words.
The senior lawyer noted that the same shell who is reluctant to pay damages to Nigerian victims of its oil spillage had in similar situations pay over $206 million to victims in Mexico.
Responding, Shell Petroleum company through its counsel led by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, described the opposition of the respondents as frivolous because it has no bearing with jurisdictional issue.
Olanipekun contended that what the respondents tagged a judgment was a ruling and not a final judgment.
He explained that his client’s request has a judicial precedence, adding that the oil giant would not have come back to the Supreme Court to seek for review of its judgment if there was no precedent.
Further in his submissions, 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.
He pleaded with the apex court to dismiss the preliminary objection to its client’s application for judgment review.
The five man panel led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour after listening to the submissions of parties to the preliminary objection adjourned to November 27 for ruling.