Shell Group says it has suspended the divestment of its interest in its Nigeria subsidiary-Shell Petroleum Development Company
The IOC in a statement signed by its Managing Director of SPDC and Chairman, Osagie Okunbor, on Thursday, said the sale of the assets had been put on hold pending the outcome of its appeal at the Supreme Court.
“The Shell Group has confirmed separately that it will not progress the divestment of its interest in SPDC until the outcome of SPDC’s appeal”, the statement partly said.
The SPDC had faced multiple court cases in the past over oil spills.
The Court of Appeal and Federal High Court, Owerri had awarded $1.95bn compensation to 88 communities in Rivers State for a 2019 oil spill they blamed on Shell and which damaged their farms and waterways.
The case was declared in favour of the communities found Shell guilty of polluting farmlands as well as rivers and other surroundings in the Ejalawa community in Oken-Ogosu, Egbalor Ebubu/Eleme Local Government of Rivers State.
The community had sought and was granted a court order blocking Shell from disposing of its assets. The company was also ordered to put the $1.95bn into an account nominated by the court until the legal dispute was settled.
Shell denied causing the spill and had filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.
Although Shell appealed both rulings and awaits a hearing, however, a report by Reuters had quoted SPDC’s spokesperson, Bamidele Odugbesan, saying Shell would still go on with the divestments in Nigeria despite the ongoing case.
“The Supreme Court ruling on 16 June was with respect to the contempt proceedings and not related to (the) onshore portfolio review,” Odugbesan said.
However, in a response to Reuter’s report, Osagie said SPDC does not have any intention of breaking the law.
“The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd complies with the law, including any court orders, and respects the judiciary and its role in upholding the rule of law. Recent media reporting regarding the 16 June Supreme Court proceedings does not accurately reflect SPDC’s response to the order. SPDC will continue to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to maintain the status quo. We have a strong belief in the merits of our case, which we are vigorously defending,” the statement by SPDC said.