The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ordered Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and its joint venture partner, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to, within 14 days, pay the sum N81.9billion to communities in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, affected by oil spills between 2000 and 2010.
Delivering judgement in the suit marked: FHC/ ABJ/CS/54/2012 filed by representatives of the communities led by Obong Effiong Archianga, the trial judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo held that the money awarded formed part of the damages.
The court agreed with plaintiffs’ counsel, Chief Lucius Nwosu (SAN), that Mobil and NNPC were negligent in the way they handled oil spills that caused environmental degradation in the communities.
The court, however, condemned that act of the NNPC for being interested in the revenue generations from oil exploration activities at the expense of the lives of the people in the affected communities.
Justice held that the oral and documentary evidence submitted by the plaintiffs to support their claims that lives were made miserable for them, when their water and land were polluted through crude oil leakages from old oil pipelines.
He further held that although Mobil and NNPC carried out clean up ex-ercise, they failed to address the compensation that would have mitigated the economic losses of the people said to be mainly fishermen and farmers.
Justice Taiwo described as unreliable the witnesses called by Mobil, noting that for no reason, they became evasive while being crossexamined by plaintiffs’ lawyer.
He added that some of the witnesses ought not to have testified at all going by the discrepancies in the documents brought to the court, adding that they only embarked on guess research that is not reliable.
The judge held that the oral and documentary evidence produced by Mobil company were not helpful to the court as they were targeted at serving predetermined interest