By Sandra Umeh
Lagos – A Federal High Court, Lagos has set aside Jan. 24, 2018 for commencement of trial in a suit by the Federal Government, against Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd, over crude oil shipment.
The suit, numbered FHC/L/CS/336/16, was filed by the FG’s counsel, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN).
It has as defendants, Shell Petroleum Development. Company of Nigeria Ltd and its subsidiary, Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, fixed Jan. 24 for trial, on which date the plaintiff is to open its case and call its witnesses.
In the suit, the plaintiff, (FG) is claiming the sum of 406.7 million dollars, from the defendants, representing the shortfall of money paid by it, into the Federal Government account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The money was said to be for crude oil lifted in 2013 and 2014.
In a supporting affidavit, the FG had accused the Anglo-Dutch company of not declaring or under-declaring crude oil shipments during the period.
It said that this was following forensic analysis of bills of laden and shipping documents, adding that Shell cheated Nigeria of the revenue.
According to the affidavit, the consortium of experts tracked the global movements of the country’s hydro-carbons, including crude oil and gas.
They identified the companies engaged in the practices that led to missing revenues from crude oil and gas export sales to different parts of the world.
They also revealed discrepancies in the export records from Nigeria with the import records at U.S. ports.
Plaintiff averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire shortfall to 406.75 million dollars.
The defendants were said to have failed to respond to a Federal Government letter through its legal representative, seeking clarification as to the discrepancies.
The Federal Government is therefore, seeking a court order to compel the two companies to pay 406.75 million dollars, being the total value of the missing revenue and interest payment at 21 percent per annum.
In addition, the government is also asking Shell to pay general exemplary damages in the sum of 406.7 million dollars, as well as the cost of the legal action.
The Federal government had also sued Chevron, Total and Agip, in a similar case before the same court.
Whereas the suit against Shell is slated for commencement of trial on Jan. 24, the case against Agip, has been fixed for adoption of addresses by parties on Dec. 20.
The FG is asking for a total of 12.7 billion dollars over alleged non-declaration of 57 million barrels of crude shipped to the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.
The oil companies are among 15 oil majors targeted by the government for the recovery of over 17 billion dollars in deprived revenue.