Chris Steven, Abuja
Leaders of the Ijaw community in Bayelsa state at the weekend protested the Federal Appeal court ruling in Port Harcourt which struck out the $1.5b oil spillage and environmental degradation case against Shell Petroleum Development of Nigeria.
The group alleged that judges who ruled in the matter were bought over by Shell to deliver a favourable judgement for them despite the overwhelming and convincing evidences of death, oil spillages and environmental pollution which shell activities in the land have brought to them, adding that they have forwarded a petition to the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to take actions against them.
Speaking at a press briefing on the judgment, leader of the I jaw group, Pere Ajuwa noted that the Ijaw nation has been in a violence free battle with Shell over the death and other hazards the company has caused them, adding that the matter has appeared before the two chambers of the National Assembly which he noted ordered Shell to pay the sum of $1.5b to the 145 Ijaw communities in Bayelsa state.
The former presidential candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2007 regretted that rather than paying the stated amount to the Ijaw nation for irreplaceable damages done to them, Shell preferred to use its money to pollute the Nigerian judicial system, alleging that it bought over the Federal Court of Appeal judges to deliver the judgment that was to their favour.
He said “we have been in a battle with Shell development petroleum company of Nigeria. When the traditional rulers council of Bayelsa state invited me to handle the case, I gave them my conditions which included non violence from any Ijaw group. In 2003, a Commission of Inquiry was called at the National Assembly and there has not been any single violence against Shell since that period till now.
“But in this process, we have been undermined even by certain agents of government and Shell. The commission of inquiry specified that 1247 indigenes of Bayelsa state died due to Shell’s oil pollution. There was an unmitigated outbreak of cholera and other water borne diseases. This figure was confirmed by both NNPC and the federal ministry of petroleum resources. I have never seen a place where blood is shed, yet the law enforcement agencies and even the judiciary will shot a blind eye to the peoples grievances even as the Ijaw people has kept faith with the non violence agreement they reached with me.
“The National Assembly proclaimed that shell was guilty of environmental degradation that led to death of people, shell was asked to pay the 145 Ijaw communities in Bayelsa state the sum of $1.5b, but shell went through the courts and said that the national assembly cannot give a legislative judgment or award such amount of money to the Ijaw nation. When we went to the federal high court, it ruled on our favour noting that if two parties agree to submit themselves to a non judicial body, any decision taken by the body should stand. It therefore upheld that shell should pay us the stated amount.
“But shell took us to the court of appeal where they had their judges who struck out the decision of the lower court despite the convincing and overwhelming evidences of oil spillages, degradation and deaths which shell activities in Bayelsa has brought to us. In striking out our case the appeal court said that we are abusing court process. This decision will not stand because we have already prepared our petition to the Nigeria Judicial Council (NJC) to sanction those shell judges. Nigerian judges have always been role models in countries like Uganda, Gambia and Sierra Leone, but just a few bad eggs in the system have allowed themselves to be used by the likes of shell to upturn justice even in the face of convincing and overwhelming evidences”. Ajuwa lamented.