Rivers Government Seals First Bank Branch After Supreme Court Judgement

source: saharareporters

A branch of First Bank Plc in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has been sealed off by the state government. The action taken following a Supreme Court judgement in favour of Ejama-Ebubu community after the bank’s inability to pay the sum of N210 billion it guaranteed Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited in a lingering litigation. Briefing journalists after the enforcement of the court judgement at the bank, Emmanuel Asido, one of the lawyers representing Ejama-Ebubu community, said the exercise was a lawful execution of the Supreme Court judgement of 11th of January, 2019 in suit no. SC/731/2017. Emmanuel Asido noted that the genesis of the case dates back to 2001 when the community filed a court case following an oil spill in the community caused by a Shell facility. He said, "Ejama-Ebubu community took an action against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited in 2001 in suit no. FCH/PH/CS/231/2001 and got judgement on the 14th of June, 2010. The judgement sum together with interest is N210 billion. Shell refused to pay the money and appealed at the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt in suit no. CA/PH/396/2012. "In the appeal which Shell lodged, they sought for the leave of the court to present a bank guarantor (First Bank Nigeria Plc) to the judgement creditors (Ejama-Ebubu) community. "Shell lost on the appeal on the 6th of June, 2017 and rather than meet their obligation by paying the judgement sum as promised, they filed a further appeal to the Supreme Court on suit no. SC/731/2017. That appeal was also dismissed by the Supreme Court on the 11th of January, 2019.” He noted that in spite of the court judgement, Shell, rather than obeying it, filed another appeal asking the Supreme Court to set aside its own judgement. According to him, the Supreme Court further dismissed Shell's application on the 27th of November, 2020. "Instead of Shell to obey the judgement of the Supreme Court, they decided to go on another exercise where they filed some clearly abusive application in the Supreme Court asking it to set aside its own judgement despite the fact that there was a bank guarantee which they have brought from First Bank,” he said. Mr. Emmanuel Asido noted that the claims by First Bank that its facility had not been sealed and that the people of Ejama-Ebubu community were only carrying out a protest was diversionary, emphasising that First Bank was fully aware of the court judgement as copies of the judgement were duly signed by the Managing Director and Secretary of the bank. Also speaking, King Emere George Osarobo Osaro, a leading claimant in the suit, said the action taken against the bank was an enforcement of the judgements sought by the Ejama-Ebubu community and granted in the favour of the community up to the Supreme Court. Some people in the community, who besieged the bank while it was being sealed, displayed placards with various inscriptions like: "First Bank, you’re on the wrong side of history for not paying Ejama people’s debt", "First Bank, redeem your corporate image, pay Ejama people their money", "First Bank, respect Supreme Court judgement, pay Ejama people their money".

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