Nigerian authorities have moved to sequester the assets of the country’s premier lender FirstBank of Nigeria Limited in an effort to recover the damages oil major Royal Dutch Shell owed the Ejama Ebubu community of Rivers State in a legal contest spanning many decades, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Police operatives and court officials arrived the bank’s main branch in Port Harcourt on Tuesday to execute an order to seize the lender’s asset, FirstBank said in a statement.
The bank said the incident leading to the confiscation of its properties was “unjustified, illegal and a reckless misuse of the machinery of justice.”
Lagos-headquartered FirstBank resolved to guarantee the damages awarded against Shell by a Rivers State high court judge a decade ago.
According to the estimation of a court last year, the damages and the accrued interest came to $479 million (N183 billion).
Shell has been embroiled in an enduring lawsuit with Rivers State community, which in 2010 sought several millions of dollars in damages against the firm for environmental pollution.
Ejama Ebubu has won many appeals instituted by Shell including a November 30 verdict rendered by the Supreme Court, upholding the 2010 ruling.
The knotty legal wrangle is a product of an oil spill incident, half a century old, reaching back to 1970, when a mishap at a Shell oil extraction facility caused thousands of barrels of crude to spill into the sea.
That accident brought a major disaster to ocean life with fishes dying in their numbers and severely disrupting fishing, a popular for locals.