allAfrica.com: Ijaw Oppose Shell's Move to Transfer $1.5bn Lawsuit: “The Ijaw aborigines had through their political leaders and representatives, Chief Pere Ajuwa and Mr. Ingo Mac-Etteli instituted a $1.5 billion lawsuit against Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited in December 2000 as compensatory claims to the environmental degradation and multiple oil spillages arising from oil exploration” (ShellNews.net) Posted 24 Feb 05
The Ijaw Aborigines of Bayelsa State have stoutly opposed moves by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) to seek a transfer of their lawsuit against the multinational oil company from the Federal High Court in Yenagoa to either Lagos or Abuja Federal High Court divisions.
The Ijaw aborigines had through their political leaders and representatives, Chief Pere Ajuwa and Mr. Ingo Mac-Etteli instituted a $1.5 billion lawsuit against Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited in December 2000 as compensatory claims to the environmental degradation and multiple oil spillages arising from oil exploration in Ijaw land of Bayelsa State.
In a three-page petition to the Chief Judge of the federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos, dated January 17, 2005 with reference (suit no. FHC IYNG/CS/587/2004, lead counsel to Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited, Chief Richard Akinjide had requested on behalf of his client and co-counsel for the transfer of the case from the Federal High Court in Yenegoa, Bayelsa state to either Lagos or Abuja Federal High Court alleging insecurity of the lives of the defence lawyers and witnesses.
Akinjide also stated in the petition that the plaintiffs (Ijaws aborigines) have resorted to the use of campaign and threats of violence to the effect that if the $1.5 billion claim was not paid by Shell, there would be "serious consequences."
However in a counter response to Akinjide's application dated February 4, 2005, lead counsel to the plaintiff (Ijaw Aborigines), Chief Bayo Ojo described the request as "making unnecessary fuss on the issue of the case transfer."
Ojo stated that for over five years period that the case had been on, his clients (Ijaw aborigines) did not resort to violence even when the defendants (Shell) negative effects of oil exploration activities in Bayelsa State remained unabated, citing documents amended to the originated summons, Ojo said that the fact remains that: (a) the petition was presented in December 2000 (b) investigative public hearings were conducted and the resolution passed in May 2003 (c) Shell flagrantly refused/neglected to comply with the resolution (d) an appeal was made to the senate and resolutions passed by the senate on August 2004 (e) a concurrent resolution was adopted in November 2004 while this action filed in 2005.
He also said that there are over five hundred cases currently pending before the Yenagoa division of the Federal High Court against Shell Petroleum and its counsel have had unrestrained access to Yenagoa for the prosecution of all the cases and no violence has been done to Shell or its counsel nor is there any threat to violence.
Ojo therefore appealed to the court to refuse the Shell's application and allow the judge sitting at Yenagoa division, against whom the defendant (Shell) has no complaint to preside over the matter.
He made his prayer on the grounds that his clients (Ijaw aborigines) would be exposed to unnecessary high cost of litigation (in terms of movement) and probable abandonment of the case if Shell's application is granted. Since it (case) affects entire community. He maintains that Shell and its counsel are propelled in their case transfer application by reasons other than the pursuit of justice.
An investigative public hearing had earlier been concluded by a four-man legal advisory panel set up by the House of Representatives to study Shell's 60 years of oil exploratory operations in Bayelsa to determine the level of ecological degradation at the end of which adequate compensation for the plaintiff was recommended. The House passed a resolution to that effect on May 28, 2003 which was reported not complied with by Shell. An appeal was eventually made to the Senate by the Ijaw which also adopted a similar resolution.