Although details are only now becoming public, a high court in Rivers State ruled in July that the site of the Bonny lifting terminal belonged to the local community, not the oil giant.
The Bonny site is hugely significant to Shell’s operations. It has storage capacity for over 12 million barrels of crude, and is equipped with a helicopter landing pad, a facility capable of loading super tankers, an indoor berthing facility to take six ocean-going tankers, an expatriate club and residential quarters.
But local residents, including the elders of Bonny, accused Shell of getting the certificate of ownership from the state government illegally. They filed suit accusing Shell of secretly obtaining a certificate of occupancy on the property from the Rivers state government.
They argued that under the July 1958 agreement between the two parties, Shell was only a tenant on the land while the Bonny people remained the landlord.
The return of land is a key demand of rebel groups, such as the main Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.
Not surprisingly Shell has appealed. “The ruling was given some months ago but we have appealed,” Shell’s spokesman in Nigeria, Precious Okolobo. Moreover most observers believe that it will not affect the oil export operations as Shell will just ignore it.
Ever heard that one before – Shell ignoring court orders in Nigeria…?
Well they continue to ignore a ruling to stop gas flaring…