Port Harcourt — The N82billion damages awarded against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and ExxonMobil, over long-standing oil spills caused by the firm in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State, is a victory for devastated oil producing communities in the Niger Delta, a stakeholder has said.
This is the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday ordered the Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and NNPC to pay two oil communities in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom a cumulative damages of N81.9 billion over oil spillage.
The Judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in a judgement debt, ordered that the payment must be paid within 14 days, and failure of which eight percent interest would be accruable on the principal sum annually.
Justice Taiwo ruled that the ExxonMobil and NNPC were negligent l, in the way they handled oil spills that caused environmental degradation in the two communities in Akwa Ibom State.
Reacting to the ruling, the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, YEAC, congratulated Ibeno community in Akwa-Ibom State and its people over the Court judgement, describing it as a victory for all oil impacted communities in the Niger Delta.
Executive Director of YEAC, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said the judgement rekindles the hope of Niger Delta communities (who haved suffered ecocide from oil companies) in the Nigeria judiciary system, especially since similar landmark judgement was given against Shell in favour of Ejama-Ebubu community in Ogoni, Rivers State.
Beyond the compensation, Fyneface called on NNPC and ExxonMobil to clean up the oil spills, carry out health audit of the people and provide medical care to address identified health issues associated with living in hydrocarbon polluted environment that they caused.
“This judgement against NNPC/Mobil reminds YEAC of the role played by NNPC and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, in the sacking of Busuu community in the Yorla Oilfield, OML 11 in Ogoniland, where nobody lives in the community anymore due to incessant oil spills and explosion from NPDC oil drilling activities in the area and till date, steps have not been taken by NNPC/NPDC to rebuild the community and resettle the people back to their ancestral land.
“We are satisfied with the amount awarded against NNPC/Mobil for Ibeno community where the JV partners are producing over 353 oil wells.
“The road to justice in the N100billion compensation suit since 2012 may have been long but justice is here eventually to serve as deterrent to other intending and ongoing environmental polluters and violators of the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Niger Delta, that their judgment day would surely come from both local and international court of competent jurisdictions.
“We call on NNPC, Mobil and JV partners to pay the N82billion general damages awarded by the Federal High Court immediately, within the stipulated 14days ordered by the court or be prepared to pay the 8% annual interest rate which amounts to N6.5Billion per annum.
“The immediate payment of the N82billion damages awarded to Ibeno community, would save the JV partners from the bitter experience of SPDC in the Ejama-Ebubu community case, which the company delayed paying the court awarded N17billion damages and now paying over N182billion with accumulated annual interest rate, over a period of 31years as at 2020.”