N82bn Oil spillage judgement: Akwa Ibom monarch warns NNPC/Mobil against renege

His royal majesty, Owong Effiong Archianga, the paramount ruler of Ibeno, an oil-producing town in Akwa Ibom State, has urged the Nigerian National Corporation (NNPC) and Exxon Mobil to comply the High Court’s judgment ordering them to pay N81.9 billion in compensation to the community.

On Monday, June 21, 2021, the Federal High Court ordered the NNPC and Exxon Mobil to pay the sum as cumulative damages to Ibeno villages as a result of the oil spillage and environmental devastation.

In his order, Justice Taiwo Taiwo stated that the payment must be paid within 14 days of the ruling, failing to do so will result in an accruable interest rate of 8% on the principal.

However, Achianga who is the immediate past National President of Traditional Rulers of Oil Producing Communities, TROPCOM, in an emergency town hall meeting with stakeholders of Ibeno Community at his place on Monday, hailed the judiciary saying that, that was a testament that ‘judiciary is the last hope for the common man.’

He, therefore, urged the Federal, State Governments and the people of goodwill to impress on the oil companies to pay the compensation without further delay, adding that the communities would not settle for anything less incase the oil giants are nursing the intention to appeal the judgement.

Achianga noted that the compensation was solely for Ibeno communities that were seriously impacted by the negative effects of the oil spillage and accused the oil giant of oppression and denial of the right of the people over the years.

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He justified the compensation in view of health hazards, socio-economic impacts and resultant pollution the operations of Exxon Mobil had caused the people over the years.

According to him, “Years back, multinational oil exploration and production companies have been in conflicts with host communities over oil spillages and with consequences of environmental degradation, negative socio-economic impacts, health hazards coupled with pollution of our ecosystem which affects our occupation as fishermen and farmers.

“Our victory in the case, instituted since 2012 has justified our pursuits for justice and fairness. By that landmark judgement, the judiciary in Nigeria has re-enacted public trust as being the last hope of the common man as well as for those who pursue their rights legally.”

Expressing his gratitude, the paramount ruler said, “Our people are very grateful to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Federal Minister of Justice & Attorney General and members of the Jury in the Nigerian Judiciary, for standing by Ibeno people for the past nine years during the legal battle with the multinational oil companies (Mobil), operating in our communities over oil exploitation, oppression and denial of our rights.

“It is against this background that the entire people of Ibeno Land at home and in diaspora wish to thank you severally and individually especially the lead Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Taiwo Taiwo for the landmark judgment of Monday, 21st June, 2021.

“Indeed, this is historic record for the Judiciary. I hope the edition of Nigerian Weekly Law Reports would chronicle this in their next edition.”

Meanwhile, a cross-section of Akwa Ibom people have reacted to the judgement saying that it was victory well deserved.
They added that the compensation will cushion the impact of oil Spillage and exploration on the affected communities.

One Effiong Offiong, a retired school teacher speaking with newsmen commended Gov. Udom Emmanuel for giving the oil producing communities the opportunity to seek for fairness and equity in the court of law.

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