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ThisDayOnline (Nigeria): Supreme Court Orders Shell to Pay Firm N6.6bn

By Davidson Iriekpen, 01.30.2007
 
The Supreme Court has ordered Shell Trustees Limited (STL), a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), to pay a construction firm, Bill Construction Company Limited (BCCL), the sum of N6.6 billion in damages for a breach of contractual agreement between them.

Besides, three banks (First Bank of Nigeria, Platinum Habib Bank Plc and Intercontinental Bank) which had in custody N6,618,178,640.80 belonging to Shell were ordered to release same to the construction company.

Bill Construction and Shell had formed a joint venture 15 years ago for the building of a housing and recreational facilities in Abuja with a proviso that should there a dispute, only Arbitration panel was capable of adjudicating it.

The proviso, according to the parties, empowered the panel to make its decision final and binding.

But this hits the rock as the decision of the panel on December 31,1996, compelling Shell to pay N352,910,156 to the construction firm, fell on deaf ears.

Angst by this, Bill Construction Company sought refuge at a Lagos High Court, asking for leave to compel Shell to comply with Arbitration Courts judgment.

Although the High Court ordered that Shell be put on notice, Shell preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the construction firm to initiate the suit suffered a mishap.
The court, however dismissed the objection on October 27, 1997, and ordered the defendant to comply with the arbitral award by paying the amount, as there was nothing to oppose.

Dissatisfied, Shell headed for the Court of Appeal alleging that its right to fair hearing was breached by the lower court when the court jettisoned its request to grant an adjournment. Shell’s appeal was upheld and the Appeal Court set aside the judgment of the lower court. Also not satisfied, Bill Construction proceeded to the Supreme Court which gave succour as the court, presided by five justices, came hard on Shell, dismissing its objection that it was not given any ample opportunity to present its case within the confines of the law.

The Supreme Court then set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and restored the ruling of the High Court.

Apparently overwhelmed by the Supreme Court’s decision, Bill Construction Company, reverted to the lower court to compel the three banks to comply with the order.

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