The Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal has struck out a N24.3billion suit filed by one Chief Benjamin Pepple on behalf of the indigenes of the Kampa communities in Eastern Obolo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State against Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (Mobil) at the Federal High Court in Uyo.
The indigenes in 2010 had alleged oil spill from Mobil’s Idoho-QIT Pipeline had wreaked havoc in their communities.
They specifically claimed that their sources of livelihood had been destroyed by the alleged oil spill and were therefore entitled to compensation against the oil major to the tune of N24.3billion.
Mobil in response to the lawsuit had filed an objection through its counsel, Professor Fabian Ajogwu, SAN challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to hear the case on the grounds that the respondent had failed to provide the particulars of damage done to his communities as required by law.
Ajogwu further contended that the respondent’s writ of summons at the Federal High Court was incompetent. The Federal High Court however on January 25, 2018 struck out Mobil’s objection, prompting the oil major to file an appeal against the decision of the High Court.
Mobil in its appellate brief, argued by Mr. Charles Nwabulu and settled by Mr. Ituah Imhanze of Kenna Partners, submitted that its (Mobil) right to fair hearing guaranteed under the Constitution had been breached by reason of the failure of the respondent to provide the particulars of damage done to his community by the alleged oil spill and that the Federal High Court ought not to have assumed jurisdiction over the suit in light of the apparent defects in the writ of summons of the respondent.
The respondent was represented by Eugene O. Odey.
In delivering its judgment, the Court of Appeal led by Justice Y. Nimpar, upheld Mobil’s appeal and resolved all the issues raised in Mobil’s favour.
The court agreed with Mobil that its right to fair hearing was breached by Justice F. O. Riman of the Federal High Court by virtue of the respondent’s failure to provide the particulars of damage done to his community by the alleged oil spill. Furthermore, the court agreed that the writ of summons filed by the communities through their representative was defective even after a purported renewal.
It held that the failure of the counsel to the respondent in affixing his NBA seal on the writ of summons even after given the opportunity to do so rendered the writ invalid.
The writ of summons was consequently, deemed incompetent by the Court of Appeal and was set aside, overturning the decision of the Federal High Court.