DIVERSION OF 2.7 BILLION DOLLAR CRUDE OIL: COURT REFUSES TO UNFREEZE SHELL PETROLEUM COMPANY’S ACCOUNTS IN NIGERIA

Oluwatosin Omojuyigbe

Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday refused to vacate its interim order directing 20 banks to block Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited and its subsidiaries’ accounts.

Justice Oguntoyinbo made the order on January 25 following AITEO Eastern E and P Company Limited’s ex parte application in suit no FHC/L/CS/52/202 seeking to recover the cash value of more than 16 million barrels of crude oil allegedly diverted by the SPDC from AITEO.

Other respondents in the suit are Royal Dutch Shell Plc; Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd; Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Ltd; and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd.

The judge had directed 20 banks to “ring-fence any cash, bonds, deposits, all forms of negotiable instruments to the value of $2.7bn and pay all standing credits to the Shell companies up to the value into an interest yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the court.”

The Chief Registrar was to “hold the funds in trust” pending the hearing of the motion and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed before it by AITEO.

About 18 banks were said to have complied with the order.

At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Justice Oguntoyinbo summoned the secretaries of the two banks and their chief financial officers for allegedly disobeying the order made on January 25, 2021.

Those affected Citi Bank Limited and the United Bank For Africa Plc.

Ruling on the defendants’ application to unfreeze the bank accounts, the judge held that the ex parte order subsisted pending the determination of AITEO’s motion on notice.

She adjourned till March 29.

Copyright PUNCH.

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