Court Stops N18.4bn Compensation for 34 Rivers Oil Communities
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, declared that the Senate acted illegally in awarding N18.4 billion as compensation to 34 oil producing communities of Obiafu, Soku to Bonny in Rivers over Nigeria NLG Ltd’s acquisition of right of way (ROW).
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment held that the plaintiff, Nigeria LNG Ltd, had successfully demonstrated that the defendants acted ultra vires and its case succeeded on merit.
The Senate had, in a resolution dated Oct 4, 2022, mandated the LNG to pay the 34 communities within 60 days, following a petition submitted on behalf of 73 communities of Obiafu, Soku to Bonny in Rivers, seeking compensation for the acquisition of right of way by the company.
The lawmakers, after their investigation through the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, resolved that 34 communities out of the 74 were yet to be compensated, thereby, directing the firm to do the needful within 60 days.
But the LNG Ltd, through its counsel, Prof Bayo Adaralegbe in an amended originating summons dated Feb. 13, sued the Senate, Senate President, National Assembly (NASS) and Mr Michael Ajileye as 1st to 4th defendants respectively.
In the application marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1989/2023, the plaintiff sought six questions for determination.
These include “whether by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Section 19 of the Oil Pipelines Act and all other relevant legislation, the 1st defendant or any of its committees, agencies or members have the powers to entertain, act on and or deal with legal claims, and or adjudicate or determine a legal right created under the Act relating to compensation for petroleum or any other activities, or any other law based on a petition submitted against the plaintiff on behalf of 73 communities of Obiafu, Soku to Bonny, in Rivers State?
“Whether the 1st defendant or any of its committees, agencies or members have the judicial powers under the 1999 Constitution or any other law to award or grant reliefs of a monetary nature in favour of persons or communities as compensation or damages in respect of legal rights and legal claims created under the Oil Pipelines Act that also mandatorily stipulates the court of law as a remedial process for compensation in respect of the violation of such legal rights?
“Whether the 1st defendant’s resolution dated 4th October, 2022, mandating the plaintiff to pay 34 communities and other individuals in Rivers State the sum of N18,374,199,727.00 (Eighteen Billion, Three Hundred and Seventy-Four Million, One Hundred and Ninety-Nine Thousand, Seven Hundred and Twenty Seven Naira) within a period of 60 days is constitutional, legal, lawful, valid, binding, and has any legal effect or force of law? ” among others.
The Senate, in its counter affidavit, argued that over the years and due to improved constitutional practices, the legislature had been conferred by law and global constitutional practices with oversight functions allied and connected to their statutory duty of law making.
It said that citizens and non-citizens of the country had the liberty to approach the upper chambers via petitions or public hearings for any constitutional issues or issues bothering on civil rights, security of the country, welfare of citizens and governance in general.
Other defendants also disagreed with the company, urging the court to dismiss the suit.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Ekwo answered the questions posed in favour of the company.
The judge said that though Section 4(2) of the 1999 Constitution provided that the NASS shall have powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the country, Section 6(6)(a) and (b) vested judicial powers in the court.
“The National Assembly in the exercise of the powers given to it by Section 88 (1) of the Constitution must observe the doctrine of separation of powers and the rule of law.
“There are consequences where any other arm of government attempts to exercise the powers given to the judiciary by any guise,” he said.
Justice Ekwo, therefore, declared that by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Senate and its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and other committees were not empowered by law to compensate or pass any binding verdict or decision, resolution, arising from the petition.
The judge gave an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants from further inviting, summoning, or issuing warrants of arrest against the company, its officers and or staff in respect of the petition or give legal effect to the resolution dated 4th October, 2022.
He equally gave an order of perpetual injunction, restraining any individual, family or member of the 73 communities individually or collectively, either through self-help or any other person acting for or through them, including law enforcement agencies from enforcing the Senate resolution dated 4th October, 2022
“This shall be the order of this court,” the judge declared. #Court Stops N18.4bn Compensation for 34 Rivers Oil Communities IPPIS: FG to Delist Unverified Workers on Oct. 27