·Judgment nullifies all goodies given to others
By Our Reporters
The Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) has reacted to the outcome of the earthshaking court case from the Federal High Court Abuja nullifying their years of engagements with communities other than Finima.
The judgment has nullified decades of payouts to others except to Finima and ordered no further work in the NLNG until the right thing is done.
The NLNG said it is aware of the judgement in the case brought by the Buoye Omuso Brown House of Finima against Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), and Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board (NCDMB), seeking the court’s interpretation in matters relating to host communities and the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
The gas giant said in a statement signed by Mr Andy Odeh, General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, that it is studying the judgment. “NLNG wishes to state that its lawyers are studying the decision and will react at the appropriate time.”
Mr Odey said the Nigeria LNG remains focused on ensuring cordial relationship with its host communities and remains committed to sustainable community development, and peace in its areas of operation as it continues to be a globally competitive LNG company helping to build a better Nigeria.
The NNPC which established the NLNG had entered into all host community agreements with Bonny as a kingdom not Finima. Thus, Finima gets its share from Bonny, and not directly from the NLNG.
Many years ago, the Finima kicked against this, saying they do not fully get even the quota stipulated for them from what Bonny collects from the NLNG.
They held demonstrations which almost turned violent, before they opted for court action or litigation.
The court has ruled that it was Finima that should be treated as host community, going by the PIA. It also said all previous dealing with any other entity remain null and void.
Many are saying that payments made to other bodies are now seen by the law as not been paid.
Another bi implication is that work should not go ahead anymore until the right thing is done, an order that may injure the operations of the company, an appeal order stops the present court order.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja declared that the community where the operational activities of an oil and gas firm are taking place reserves the hosting rights in such circumstance and should be engaged in that regard by the firm carrying out such operation.
The Justice, Donatus Okorowo, gave this verdict in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1419/2022, on Friday, September 15, 2023 in favour of the Buoye Omuso (Brown) Major House of Finima, who are plaintiffs suing on behalf of themselves and the people of Finima Community.
Respondents in the suit are the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Represented by Amauche Onyedum, a Principal Counsel in Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers, the plaintiffs, who asserted in the said suit that they are founders and owners of all lands in Finima, sought and got all the reliefs granted to wit:
“A DECLARATION that the Plaintiffs, who sued in a representative capacity for themselves and on behalf of the Buoye Omuso (Brown) Major House of Finima, (founders of Finima, and owners of all lands in Finima) and Finima Community in Bonny Local Government Area, Rivers State, is the host community housing the NLNG Plant and other NLNG facilities, referred to in the 2nd Defendant’s letter dated 3rd March, 1978, with reference No: GPD.001/S.1/21 50230/225, same being their ancestral homelands.
A DECLARATION that the refusal, failure and/or neglect by the Defendants, their representatives, aides, workers, agents, privies, and servants, to enter into a lease agreement with the Plaintiffs, and ensure compliance with the terms agreed upon by the 2nd Defendant and NCDMB Community Content Guidelines constitutes a deprivation of the rights of the Plaintiffs as host community and a breach of the terms so agreed upon.
A DECLARATION that the Defendants ought not to have commenced any form of business in the Plaintiffs community without due, total and adequate compensation to and relocation of the Plaintiffs to a decent settlement which shall be in compliance with the terms duly entered into by the 2nd Defendant; and in any case not below the standards of what the Plaintiffs had enjoyed before the coming of the Defendants to their ancestral lands.
A DECLARATION that the Defendants’ non-compliance with the required terms, conditions and guidelines of extant laws, has had direct consequential adverse effect on the Plaintiffs, their livestock, buildings, tombs, totems, residential homes, streams, cash crops, minerals, life, means of livelihood and dignity of the human person.
A DECLARATION that the dealings on the said lands and alleged compensations clandestinely and surreptitiously paid to any person or persons not being the representatives of the Buoye Omuso (Brown) Major House and members of Finima Community are illegal, wrongful, unlawful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
A DECLARATION that the acts of the Defendants, whether by themselves, their workers, representatives, privies, servants, agents, etc., in demolishing all, or any part of the structures, built and erected by the Plaintiffs in Finima community, including farmlands, economic trees, livestock, totems, relies, etc., and confiscation of ancestral lands in Finima Community contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act, 2010, and Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board – Community Content Guidelines (NCDMB-CCG), 2017, are therefore illegal, wrongful unlawful, unconscionable, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
A DECLARATION that it is, illegal, wrongful, unconscionable and unlawful for the defendants to refuse, neglect and fail to ensure due compliance with the provisions of Sections 25, 26, 27, and 28(2) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act, 2010, and Guidelines 1.0 to 7.0 of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board – Community Content Guidelines (NCDMB-CCG), 2017, as they affect the Plaintiffs’ land in their community before or after the commencement of work, or soon after the coming into effect of the instant Act and guidelines by the 3rd Defendant.
AN ORDER directing the Defendants to effect a lease agreement between the Plaintiffs and the NLNG and or any other interested or relevant party within 30 clear days from the date judgment is delivered in favor of the Plaintiffs in this suit.
AN ORDER directing the Defendants to accord and award the Plaintiffs directly, their entitlements, privileges and benefits which have accrued and accruable to the Plaintiffs as host community that bear the brunt of the Defendants’ operations.
AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Defendants, whether by themselves, their representatives, workers, servants, agents and/or privies howsoever called, from carrying out further works or operations on the site of the NLNG Plant in Finima Community until due and total compliance with the terms and conditions agreed upon by the Plaintiffs with the 3rd Defendant, the provisions of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act, 2010, and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board – Community Content Guidelines (NCDMB-CCG), 2017, as well as other extant regulatory requirements.
The Buoye Omuso (Brown) Major House of Finima, (Founders of Finima, and owners of all lands in Finima) praised Prof. Mike Ozekhome, SAN, for his industry and versatility in the presentation of their matter. According to him “This clearly shows that there is still hope for people who run to the court for justice.”
It was not clear as at the time of this report the position of President Bola Tinubu, who is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, NNPC Limited, NLNG and NCDMB on the court’s judgment on the matter, whether to pursue an appeal or comply.
Sources said the journey to finding clarity on the status of Finima Community in relation to the presence of several multinationals operating within its environment has been a long arduous one.
This became more convoluted with the sad outcomes that trailed its protest at the Industrial Area of the NLNG’s gas liquefaction plant in Bonny Island on Thursday, June 10, 2021.