By Salawudeen Olawale
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday granted leave to the Federal Government to amend its statement of claims in a suit filed against Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd over crude oil shipment resulting in revenue loss of about $406.8m.
The suit no. FHC/L/CS/336/16 was filed by FG’s counsel, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), and is pending before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.
It has as defendants; Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nig. Ltd and its subsidiary — Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd.
When the suit was mentioned on Monday, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Ituah Imhanze, informed the court of an application to amend the plaintiff’s statement of claims.
He urged the court to grant his application and allow the plaintiff leave to “tidy up” its pleadings.
The Defence counsel did not oppose the application for amendment.
In a short ruling, Justice Olatoregun granted the application but noted that besides applications for amendment of processes, there had been no remarkable progress in the suit since it was filed.
She, however, adjourned the case until May 31 and June 1 for hearing and directed that the plaintiff should ensure that the amended processes were served on the defence.
The plaintiff is claiming $406.8m from the defendants, being the shortfall of money paid into the Federal Government’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The money was said to be for crude oil lifted in 2013 and 2014.
In a supporting affidavit, the FG had accused the Anglo-Dutch company of not declaring or under-declaring crude oil shipments during the period.
It said the discovery followed a forensic analysis of bills of laden and shipping documents, adding that Shell cheated Nigeria of the huge revenue.
According to the affidavit, the consortium of experts tracked the global movements of the country’s hydrocarbons, including crude oil and gas.
They identified the companies engaged in the practices that led to missing revenues from crude oil and gas export sales to different parts of the world.
They also revealed discrepancies in the export records from Nigeria and the import records at U.S. ports.
The federal government averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire revenue shortfall to $406.75m.
The defendants were said to have failed to respond to a government letter through its legal representative, seeking clarification as to the discrepancies.
The government is, therefore, seeking a court order to compel the two companies to pay $406.8m, being the total value of the missing revenue and interest payment at 21 percent per annum.
In addition, the government is also asking Shell to pay general exemplary damages in the sum of $406.75m as well as the cost of the legal action.
The government had also sued Chevron, Total and Agip in a similar case before the court.
The FG is asking for a total of $12.7bn over alleged non-declaration of 57 million barrels of crude shipped to the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.
The oil companies are among the 15 oil majors targeted by the government for the recovery of $17bn in deprived revenue.