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Shell’s $406.8m suit stalled by Judge’s absence in Lagos

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…Agip suit also affected

A suit filed by the Federal Government against Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd over alleged crude oil shipment worth $406.8m to November 15, 2018 suffered attention on Monday due to absence of trial judge at a Federal High Court in Lagos.

The judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, was said to be attending a conference in Abuja. A similar case before the same court involving the federal government and Agip which was also scheduled for Monday, was also adjourned to November 15 for hearing.

In the case with Shell, federal government’s counsel, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), said Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd and its subsidiary; Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd are defendants.

Federal government had gone to court, seeking the sum of $406.8m from the defendants, which it claimed represents the shortfall of money paid into the Federal Government’s account with the Central Bank. The money is for crude oil lifted in 2013 and 2014.

In a supporting affidavit, the federal government had accused the Anglo-Dutch company of not declaring or under-declaring crude oil shipments during the period.

It said it was discovered following a forensic analysis of bills of laden and shipping documents, adding that Shell cheated Nigeria of the revenue.

According to the affidavit, the consortium of experts tracked the global movements of the country’s hydro-carbons, including crude oil and gas.

It 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.

It also revealed discrepancies in the export records from Nigeria with the import records at U.S. ports.

The plaintiff averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire shortfall to $406.75m.

The defendants were said to have failed to respond to a federal government letter through its legal representative, seeking clarification on the discrepancies.

The federal 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 per cent 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 instituted against it.

The federal government had also sued Chevron, Total and Agip in a similar case before the court.

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 15 oil majors targeted by the government for the recovery of $17bn in deprived revenue.

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