A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order, mandating the Central Bank of Nigeria to release the sum of N81.9 billion standing to the credit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and its joint venture partner, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU), in its custody to oil producing communities in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom.
The order was contained in judgement delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on Monday, February 28, 2022 in a suit instituted by aggrieved oil communities ravaged by oil spillage.
The Ibeno communities led by Obong Effiong Archianga and nine others, had brought an action against NNPC, Mobil and Exxon Mobil Corporation seeking about N100 billion compensation for economic losses suffered from oil spillages caused by the defendants during exploration.
The aggrieved oil communities had gone to court for aredress over oil spillage, which they claimed had caused environmental degradation in their communities.
In a judgment on June 21, 2021, Justice Taiwo had made an order, awarding the cost of N81.9 billion to the plaintiffs, who are now judgement creditors.
The court had ordered that the money must be paid within 14 days after which eight percent interest will be accruable on the principal sum annually.
But, on December 15, 2021, in a garnishee nisi proceeding, the apex bank had insisted that it had to get the consent of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, before enforcing the garnishee judgment.
However, in the judgement on Monday, this week, Justice Taiwo dismissed the claim of the CBN and ordered it to release funds belonging to the NNPC and Mobil to the tune of N82 billion to the judgement creditor.
The Federal High Court said it was wrong for the apex bank to say it had to get consent from the AGF before attaching the judgment debt, insisting the CBN was not a public officer.
Justice Taiwo noted that the coming into force of the Petroleum Industry Act had altered the name of the judgement debtor.