ANOH gas project: Awarra Community drags NNPC to Court over failure to pay N17Bn compensation
The 300MMscfd capacity ANOH gas processing plant, located on OML 53 in Imo State, which is an international joint venture (IJV) owned equally between Seplat and the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) appears to have run into troubled waters.
This is as members of Awarra Community (Ohaji/Egbema) Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative Society Limited has filed a case against the NNPCL at a Federal High Court in Owerri, Imo State in Suit No: FHC/OW/CS/45/2023 demanding for the payment of over N17 billion as compensation for the destruction of rubber seedlings/crops.
In the ‘Originating Summons’ and ‘Motion for Interlocutory Injunction’, the plaintiff is seeking the court’s determination among others why the NNPCL has failed to pay adequate and fair compensation for the acquisition of the pipeline right of way, injury to economic crops and damage to the surface of the land area lawfully occupied by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff is also asking the court to determine whether the defendant ought to have paid the prescribed compensation within 30 days after assessment of the land and crops in June 2021.
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The Originating Summons alleged that assessment and valuation of the economic crops carried out by the defendant in June 2021 summed up 2,497,500 stands of Rubber seedlings valued at N17,482,500,000 was due as compensation to the plaintiff. However, the NNPCL has remain elusive after the exercise hence the decision to seek legal redress.
In addition, the plaintiff is also asking the court to mandate the defendant to pay the sum of N200 million as compensatory and punitive damages for redundancy, unnecessary delay, disappointment, loss of income among others. Another sum of N20 million is equally being demanded by the plaintiff as cost of litigation.
In the six questions for determination in the summons taken by Chukwuma Okechukwu Esq, head of the plaintiff’s legal team, the plaintiff is asking the court to determine among others:
“Whether by virtue of Section 44 (1) (a) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 (as amended) & section 101 of petroleum Industry Act, 2021, the Defendant shall not, in the course of its Gas pipeline project known as ASSA-OBRIKOM PIPELINE RIGHT OF WAY, injure any economic/ Agricultural tree of commercial value or damage the surface of the land area lawfully occupied by the Plaintiff, without prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation to the Plaintiff who are the Project affected Persons by the damage or injury”.
“Whether by the seed row Assessment and valuation of the plaintiff’s Economic /Agricultural Rubber seedlings’ plantations of commercial value carried out by the Defendant since June 2021, and summed to be two million four hundred and ninety seven thousand five hundred (2,497,500) stands of Rubber Seedlings /Crops, The Defendant should have issued Valuation Certificate to the Plaintiff within their pipeline Right-of-way upon conclusion of the Assessment and Valuation Exercise comparable to Similar /Sister Pipeline Project known as ANOH-NGC CORRIDOR TO SHELL MANIFOLD RIGHT-OF-WAY currently handled by SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company Plc, as Standard Practice”
“Whether by the seed row Assessment and Valuation of the plaintiff’s Economic /Agricultural Rubber Seedlings’ plantations of commercial value carried out by the Defendant since June 2021 and summed up to be two million, four hundred and ninety seven thousand five hundred (2,497,500) stands of Rubber seedlings/ crops, the plaintiff’s head of claim is categorized under Grade C payable at the compensation rate of seven thousand naira (N7000.00) per stand for their compensation by the Defendant”.
“Whether the plaintiff is entitled to a total sum of Seventeen Billion Four Hundred and Eighty Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N17, 482,500,000.00) being and representing the assessed and valuated 2,497,500 stands of Rubber Seedlings /Crops multiplied by Seven thousand Naira (N7000.00) compensation rate per stand of Plaintiff’s head of claim for compensation payable by the Defendant.”
“Whether the defendant ought to have paid the compensation to the Plaintiff promptly as prescribed by Section 44(1) (a) (b) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and or within 30 days after the seed row assessment in June 2021 in accordance with Section 101 (5) of the Petroleum industry Act, 2021.”
Further more, owing to the Defendant’s acts of trespass to the Plaintff’s said lawfully occupied land by currently clearing the site and creating roads for the pipeline right-of-way project since August 2023 without payment of compensation, the plaintiff is seeking for an Order of injunction restraining the defendant, by itself or through its agent, servant, worker, contractor, hirelings, privies, allies, añd any other person whosoever interfering, from engaging in any transaction involving the execution of Assa-Obirikom pipeline right of way on the plaintiff’s lawful occupation of the portion of land known as Obor land Agricultural Rubber plantation of Awarra Community (Ohaji/Egbema) Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative Society Ltd, Imo State, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Meanwhile, according to the Plaintiff’s Lead Counsel Chukwuma Okechukwu, Esq; the Plaintiff had made pre-action letters to the Defendant on two occasions dated 24th April, 2023 and 19th June, 2023 demanding prompt payment of the compensaation; the Defendant made no move for same except the Defendant’s body language showing that its consultant has embezzled the huge sums of money for the compensation. The lead Counsel further stated that it is only wise and reasonable for the Defendant to stop further trespass to the land having been served with court process, in order to avoid provocation of the breach of peace, restiveness and hostility to the project by the angered members of the community.
No date has been assigned for the hearing of the case.