Shell punished over greed and malice

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After going behind the community to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) over a land that belonged to the natives, without the permission and knowledge of the land owners, Shell Petroleum have been ordered to surrender the oil rich land back to its rightful native owners, a Rivers State High Court ruled.

According to an agreement dated July 22, 1958, Shell entered and the Bonny land owners, agreed to use the land at a rent of more than two pounds, which from 1962 became payable yearly, but Shell, without consulting the Bonny land owners, obtained a C of O, dated March 18, 1998, which claims to turn it (Shell) into the landlord, rather than the tenant it was, by the July 22, 1958 agreement.

Following an investigation and discovering the said C of O in favour of Shell, by Mr. Lucius Nwaosu (SAN), counsel to the Bonny people, in respect of the same land, covered by the July 22, 1958 agreement, the Bonny people approached the Rivers State High Court to determine the legality or otherwise of the said C of O.

The presiding Judge in setting aside the C of O, said: ‘This action of Shell not only smacks of malice but greed and therefore not worthy of any form of sympathetic consideration. Accordingly, I feel no hesitation whatsoever in setting aside the said Certificate of Occupancy for being unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect. The law remains that a right of occupancy whether statutory or customary creates priority of estate so as to render null and void any subsequent Certificate of Occupancy issued in respect of the same parcel of land unless the right of occupancy is validly revoked by the appropriate authority before the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy in respect of that same parcel of land to another person.’

The disputed terminal, which houses Shell’s oil tank farm and believed to be the biggest oil terminal in Africa, at present has a storage facility of over 12 million barrels of crude oil export terminal, a helicopter landing pad, a facility capable of loading supper tankers, an indoor berthing facility to take six ocean-going tankers, an expatriate club, and residential quarters among others.

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