By Innocent Anaba
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, refused to vacate the interim Mareva injunction it made directing 20 commercial banks to block Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC,) and its subsidiaries’ bank accounts.
The court ordered the alleged contemnors to appear before it on the next adjourned date of March 29, 2021.
Justice Oguntoyinbo warned that their failure to appear would result in a warrant of arrest being issued against them.
The judge made the order in a ruling on three applications in a suit by Aiteo Eastern E&P Company Ltd against SPDC and four others.
Aiteo is claiming about $2.7 billion against SPDC over alleged problems with the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) pipeline it bought from the Anglo-Dutch group in 2015 and over claims that Shell undercounted its oil exports.
Other respondents in the suit are Royal Dutch Shell Plc; Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd; Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Ltd; and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd.
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It will be recalled that the court granted the Mareva injunction on January 25, 2021, directing 20 commercial banks to block SPDC and its subsidiaries’ accounts and barring Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiaries from withdrawing money at 20 banks until it “ringfences” potential damages in a lawsuit brought against the firm by Aiteo.
It was learned that 18 of the banks were said to have complied with the order.
The order was sequel to AITEO’s bid to recover from Shell, the cash equivalent of more than 16 million barrels of crude oil allegedly diverted by the oil giant.
At the last hearing on March 9, 2021, the court heard three applications by the plaintiff AITEO and the defendants SPDC and others relating to its jurisdiction, motion to discharge its ex-parte order and committal proceedings against the three banks.
When the case was called, yesterday, the judge upheld Aiteo ‘s application and gave primacy to the application for committal proceedings.
“The committal proceedings are the appropriate application to consider. I, therefore, hold that the first application to be heard is the committal proceedings,” she said.
The judge further ruled that the presence of the named bank officials was necessary.
She said: “The alleged contemnors must be present in court at the next hearing, otherwise, a warrant of arrest shall be issued against them.”
On the defendants’ application to vacate the Mareva injunction and unfreeze the bank accounts, the judge held that the ex parte order subsists pending the determination of AITEO’s motion on notice.
She adjourned till March 29, 2021, for the hearing of the committal proceedings and other applications.
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