FIRST BANK IN TROUBLE AS COURT MOVES TO SEIZE ASSETS OVER 50-YR OLD CASE WHERE THE BANK STOOD SURETY FOR SHELL

The knotty legal wrangle is a product of an oil spill incident, half a century old, reaching back to 1970.

A High Court in Rivers State has moved to sequester the assets of the country’s premier lender FirstBank of Nigeria Limited in an effort to recover the damages oil major Royal Dutch Shell owed the Ejama Ebubu community of Rivers State in a legal contest spanning many decades, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

Police operatives and court officials arrived the bank’s main branch in Port Harcourt on Tuesday to execute an order to seize the lender’s asset.

The bank said the incident leading to the confiscation of its properties was “unjustified, illegal and a reckless misuse of the machinery of justice”, FirstBank said in a statement quoted by Bloomberg.

It said the confiscation disregarded an interim court ruling Shell secured in December, forbidding the lender from paying out any money in settling the judgement debt and restraining the Ejama Ebubu community from moving to force FirstBank to do so.
A representative of First Bank told PREMIUM TIMES the bank has filed a motion to nullify the verdict authorising the seizure of its property.

Decades-long battle

Lagos-headquartered FirstBank resolved to guarantee the damages awarded against Shell by a Rivers State high court judge a decade ago.

According to the estimation of a court last year, the damages and the accrued interest came to $479 million (N183 billion).

Shell has been embroiled in an enduring lawsuit with Rivers State community, which in 2010 sought several millions of dollars in damages against the firm for environmental pollution.

Ejama Ebubu has won many appeals instituted by Shell including a November 30 verdict rendered by the Supreme Court, upholding the 2010 ruling.

The knotty legal wrangle is a product of an oil spill incident, half a century old, reaching back to 1970, when a mishap at a Shell oil extraction facility caused thousands of barrels of crude to spill into the sea.

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