Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and its joint venture partner, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), have been ordered by the Federal High Court in Abuja to pay N81.9 billion to a number of communities in the Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State who were harmed by oil spills between 2000 and 2010.
The money formed the damages Justice Taiwo awarded against Nnpc and Mobil in a judgment he delivered on Monday in a suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/54/2012 filed by representatives of the communities led by Obong Effiong Archianga.
In the judgment, Justice Taiwo agreed with plaintiffs’ lawyer, Chief Lucius Nwosu (SAN) that NNPC and Mobil were negligent in the way they handled oil spills that caused environmental degradation in the communities.
Justice Taiwo came down hard on NNPC for being interested in the revenue generations from oil exploration activities at the expense of the lives of the individuals in the affected communities.
The judge said he believed the oral and documentary evidence submitted by the plaintiffs to support the claims of theirs that lives were made miserable for them when the water of theirs and land were polluted through crude oil leakages from old oil pipelines.
He said although NNPC and Mobil carried out clean up exercise, they failed to address the compensation that would’ve mitigated the economic losses of the folks said to be mainly farmers and fishermen.
Justice Taiwo described as unreliable the witnesses called by Mobil, noting that for no reason, they started to be evasive while being cross examined by plaintiffs’ lawyer.
He added which several of the witnesses ought not to have testified at all going by the discrepancies in the documents brought to the court, adding that they just embarked on guess research that’s not reliable.
The judge held that the oral and documentary evidence produced by Mobil company weren’t helpful to the court as they had been targeted at serving pre determined interest
He said both NNPC and Mobil were negligent by their failure to check out places of the leakages of the crude oil that led to the contamination of creeks and rivers.
Justice Taiwo rejected NNPC’s contention that the suit was statute barred in 2012 when it was filed, noting the suit has to do with basic rights that can’t be rendered impotent by the statute of limitations.
He noted that Section 11(5) of the Oil Pipeline Act makes it mandatory for oil companies to monitor and repair the pipelines of theirs to stay away from environmental degradation and spillages.
Justice Taiwo proceeded to award N42.8 billion as damages for intangible losses, N29.1 billion as special damages and N10 billion as general damages.
He said the judgment sum must be paid within fourteen days, failing which it is going to attract 8.0 per cent interest annually.
The judge excluded third defendant ExxonMobil Corporation from some liability, holding that the plaintiffs failed to establish any cause of action against it.