A Port Harcourt High Court has sentenced the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Osagie Okunbor, and two others to three months in prison with hard labour.
Those sentenced to prison alongside the SPDC boss in contempt proceedings are, Company Secretary and Head of Legal, Nike Oyinlola, as well as Deputy Country Head of Legal/Managing Counsel, Global Litigation, sub-Sahara Africa, Keibi Atemie.
Presiding judge, George Omereji, while delivering judgment in suit No: PHC/1929/218, convicted the Shell officials for disobeying a court order of Justice Margaret Opara of the Rivers State High Court in 2008, asking Shell to forfeit the land where the Bonny Crude Oil Terminal is located.
The land is said to belong to the Jumbo Major House and the Brown House of Finima, both in Bonny, Rivers State.
The families, who are Shell’s landlord in Bonny had gone to court in suit no: PHC/1956/2007, over the tenancy and compensation for the land but then military Government of Rivers State had issued a certificate of occupancy to Shell.
Justice Opara had ordered Shell to forfeit the Bonny Crude Oil Terminal (established in 1962) for violating its the terms of tenancy by going behind the landlords to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the Government of Rivers State.
In his ruling on the matter yesterday, Justice Omereji dismissed a motion of notice by counsel to Shell and its three officials seeking to set aside the court order of July 25, 2018 that grant leave to the landlords to serve substituted means of notice of consequence of disobedience of court order in the suit upon the oil firm.
After hearing the submissions of Lucius Nwosu (SAN), Emmanuel Asido counsels to the Bonny landlords and Thompson J Okpoko (SAN), counsel to Shell officials, he declared Okunbor, Olafimihan and Atemie’s committal was for refusal to obey the order of Justice Opara to forfeit the Bonny terminal to the landlords.
But in its reaction, SPDC denied claims of disobeying any court order, saying it will appeal the judgment.
Its spokesperson, Bamidele Odugbesan, said the company has utmost respect for the courts and the laws of the country.