The $406 dollars suit filed by the Nigerian Government against Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd over alleged crude oil shipment fraud has suffered a setback as the trial judge was absent in court.
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday was forced to adjourn continuation of hearing of the case until Nov. 15.
The suit, filed by the federal government’s counsel, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), has Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd and its subsidiary — Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd as defendants.
The trial was stalled following the absence of the judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who was said to be attending a conference in Abuja.
Similarly, a similar case before the same court involving the federal government and Agip which was also scheduled for Monday, was also fixed for Nov. 15 for hearing.
The plaintiff is claiming the sum of 406.8 million dollars from the defendants, representing 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 406.75 million dollars.
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 406.8 million dollars 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 406.75 million dollars 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 12.7 billion dollars 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 17 billion dollars in deprived revenue.