10 February 2014, Lagos – Thirteen years after an ac-tion was instituted before a Federal High Court in Asaba against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, SPDC, the court has awarded N305.60 million as damages against the company.
Justice I.N. Buba, entered judgment in favour of the plaintiffs, led by Mr Pius Gbenevei and four others for themselves and on behalf of Okia Community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.
Others who were plaintiffs in the suit are Benson Barda, Chief Francis Gold, Chief Ben Ekiokangan and Reuben Braboke.
The court in its judgment, held that “judgement is hereby entered for the plaintiffs in the sum of N305.637 million only, being special and general damages caused by the defendant’s crude oil spillage to the plaintiff’s properties being capital value for temporary loss of income in fishing rights to the adult fishing population of about 400 people.”
The court awarded N232. 837 million as income in fishing rights for about 400 people, N9.01 million as open market value of fishing nets for individuals, and N4.5 million as allowance for fresh water supply to the people.
However, the court refused to award cost against the defendant as requested by the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs had claimed that sometime in August 1998, there was a crude oil spill or outflow from SPDC’s Forcados offshore loading terminal/baseline in which some “barrels of crude oil spilled into the Forcados and Ramos rivers and was subsequently and negligently allowed by the defendant to be dispersed by tide, current and sea waves, thereby spreading to the plaintiffs’ Okia community, resulting in extensive damages to fishing gears, ponds, farmlands, crops, fishing channels and swamps.”
They claimed that after a complaint was lodged at the defendant’s company through a letter by their lawyer, the company only replied that the tense atmosphere in the area did not allow them to carry out investigation and assessment of damages, but promised to pay damages “as soon as normal operations are resumed in the area.”