Alleged Crude Theft: Court Freezes Shells Account

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…Adjourns Aiteo Suit Firm To Feb. 24

Yemisi Izuora

A Federal Court has ordered the blocking of all accounts run by Shell in commercial banks in the country, over alleged oil theft.
Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Lagos, has also fixed February 24 for the hearing the suit filed by an indigenous oil firm, Aiteo against Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)

Justice Oguntoyinbo fixed the date after discharging some banks that have complied with it’s order in relation to the debt allegedly owed Aiteo by SDPC.

The court had sometimes in January while granting an exparte application filed by Aiteo’s counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro and Emeka Ozoani both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), in freezing SDPC’s account as well orders all banks in Nigeria, that has any money belonging to SDPC in their custody to file affidavit showing how much the debtor creditor has with them.

The court specifically directed the 20 banks, joined in the suit, where the Shell companies operate accounts in Nigeria to “ring-fence any cash, bonds, deposits, all forms of negotiable instruments to the value of $2.7 billion 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, who is 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.

When the matter came up for hearing on Monday, in compliance with the order, Justice Oguntoyinbo discharged some banks for demonstrating that they have no relationship with SPDC.

Some of the banks discharged by the court include: Access, Heritage, keystone, Providus, StanbicIBTC and Sterling.

Upon discharge of the banks, Wale akoni (SAN) told the court that his clients, GTB and Chattered Standard banks have filed affidavits showing the amount SPDC has with them.

He urged the court to discharge them in line with Order 26 rule12 of Federal High Court Procedure Rules. He said that even though, SDPC has accounts with the two banks, such accounts are not attached to the court order.

Corroborating Akoni’s submission, applicant counsel, Pinheiro (SAN) told the court that both GTB and Chartered Standard banks have filed affidavits showing that SPDC have some funds with them. He told the court further that unless the court make a deeming order, the banks are not among those discharged.

Pinheiro also told the court that all parties in the suit have been duly served with all the additional applications filed.

The senior lawyer also told the court that Akoni (SAN) has also filed an application seeking to discharge the court order.

He further informed the judge that counsel to SPDC, Wale Atake (SAN) have filed an application seeking to stay the court proceedings and that he has received correspondence from Aluko/Oyebode law firm, representing 2nd-4th respondents but not filed any processes except memorandum of appearance.

He therefore asked the court for a further date, so that all parties can address court on the applications filed.

Wale Atake (SAN) confirmed to court that he has an application seeking to stay further proceedings in the matter till the outcome of the arbitration.

He told the court that the order made by the court has far overreaching effects on the defendant, “salaries can’t be paid, our obligations to the contractors can’t be met, the order has completely dismantled our operations.

“The order goes as far as attaching our accounts’, he stated.

He therefore urged the court to give an early date for hearing of all applications.

By the consent of all counsel, Justice Oguntoyinbo adjourned the matter till next week Wednesday for hearing of all applications.

Oriental News Nigeria reports that a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos had earlier granted an interim Mareva injunction directing commercial banks to block Shell accounts in a bid to recover the cash value of more than 16 million barrels of crude allegedly diverted by the oil giant from the indigenous oil company, Aiteo.

Justice Oluremi Omowunmi Oguntoyibo while giving the order in suit no FHC/L/CS/52/2021, directed the 20 banks where the Shell companies operate accounts in Nigeria to “ring-fence any cash, bonds, deposits, all forms of negotiable instruments to the value of $2.7 billion 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, who is 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.

Aiteo, alongside some other indigenous oil producers, have had a protracted dispute with Shell alleging that the company shortchanged them using the unapproved methodology to calculate the volume of crude it lifts on their behalf from the terminal. They jointly allege that Shell deploys underhand practices including using unapproved meters to facilitate crude theft.

Our Correspondent learnt that an investigation into the dispute by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Shell in a letter to the agency, admitted that it had indeed installed unapproved metering systems and agreed to refund more than 2 million barrels of crude it had illegally taken from the producers (Belema Oil, AITEO, Eroton and NewCross) between 2016 and 2018.

However, in this lawsuit, AITEO is claiming a loss of over 16 million barrels of crude to Shell from oil injected into the Bonny Terminal since March 2015 when it acquired OML 29 from SPDC.

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