Judge’s absence stalls $406.7m suit against Shell

Federal High Court, Lagos

The absence of Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday stalled the suit by the Federal Government against Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd over alleged crude oil shipment.

The Federal Government in the suit filed by its Counsel, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), has Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nig. Ltd and its subsidiary, Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd as co-defendants.

The Federal Government is claiming $406.7 million from the defendants as the shortfall of money paid for crude oil lifted between 2013 and 2014.

The plaintiff, in its supporting affidavit, accused Shell of not declaring or under-declaring crude oil shipments during the period.

It said the discovery followed a forensic analysis of bills of laden and shipping documents, adding that Shell had cheated Nigeria of the revenue.

It added that the consortium of experts tracked the global movements of the country’s hydrocarbons, including crude oil and gas.

The experts, it said, identified the companies engaged in the practices that led to missing revenues from crude oil and gas export sales to different parts of the world.

They also revealed discrepancies in the export records from Nigeria with the import records at U.S ports.

The plaintiff averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire shortfall to $406.75 million.

The defendants were said to have failed to respond to a Federal Government’s letter through its legal representative, seeking clarification to the discrepancies.

The Federal Government is, therefore, seeking a court order to compel the two companies to pay $406.75million, being the total value of the missing revenue and interest payment at 21 percent per annum.

In addition, the government is also asking Shell to pay general exemplary damages of $406.75 million as well as the cost of the legal action.

The Federal Government had, in a similar case, also sued Chevron, Total and Agip.

The government is asking for $12.7 billion over alleged non-declaration of 57 million barrels of crude shipped to the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.

The oil companies are among 15 oil majors, targeted by the government for the recovery of over $17 billion in deprived revenue.

The suit has been adjourned until October 9.