Lawmakers ask Shell to pay N 200 mm to Delta State

Jul 28, 2006 02:00 AM

The Delta State House of Assembly Public Petitions Committee, which investigated the alleged deceitful acquisition of Ikpereguma family land by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), has asked the oil multinational to pay the Ikpereguma community in Delta State the sum of N 200 mm for the wrongful entry into the community's land.
The committee headed by Mr Denis Omovie also called on the state's Ministry of Land, Survey and Urban Development to be directed to put machinery in process to revoke any purported certificate of occupancy wrongfully issued in favour of Shell over all the land measuring approximately 218.09 hectares or 538.92 acres lying and situated in Jeddo and respect the rights of the Ikpereguma community as holders of a deemed right of occupancy over the land.

According to the committee's report, "we are of the view that even if SPDC can prove title to the land through the instrumentality of a certificate of occupancy allegedly in her possession which she refused to produce, under the public Land Acquisition Law or the Mineral Oil Act of the Laws of the Federation or the Pipeline Act of the Laws of the Federation, the acquisition would still be questionable and improper in that.”
“Since the petitioners (Ikpereguma community) are the original owners in possession of the land prior to the purported acquisition by SPDC, they would be deemed holders of statutory rights of occupancy by virtue of section 35 (5) (a) of the Land Use Act, that is if the land does not fall within a designated urban area."

"As deemed holders of right of occupancy whether statutory or customary the petitioners right of occupancy cannot be extinguished by the grant of another right of occupancy over the land in favour of SPDC without first; a revocation of the Petitioners right of occupancy.”
So stated the Supreme Court in Nigeria Eng. Work Limited, Vs DENAP Limited, (2001) 92 LRCN page 3,425 at page 3,451 and 3,452, the Supreme Court made it clear in the case that "any holder of a right of occupancy, whether evidenced or yet to be evidenced by a certificate of occupancy, holds right as long as it is done in accordance with the Law. Thus any certificate of occupancy granted without the revocation of a prior right of occupancy over the same land is invalid in law."

"There is no evidence that the right of occupancy of the petitioners over the land was at any time revoked by the government. Acquisition of land under the public Lands Acquisition Law of Bendel State is meant for acquiring lands for Public Purpose.”
“The construction of a staff housing estate by a private company cannot be said to be for public purpose and certainly does not come within the definition of public purpose in law. The Mineral Oils Act and Oil Pipeline Act only confers upon the holder of a permit to survey or mining or oil pipeline license right of way or entry upon land belonging to another to do such things as is specified in the permit or license as a possessory right is limited to a strip of land of a width not exceeding two hundred feet (unless otherwise specified in the license) on a route specified in the license."

"It is a right granted by the Act to the holders of any of the categories of the licenses to construct, maintain and operate an oil pipeline or pipeline and auxiliary installations, which by no stretch of imagination, extends to the construction of a housing scheme or establishment of a farming scheme.”
“The committee appreciate that it is not SPDC's case that she acquired the Land under any or the Laws referred to above but has taken the pain to consider the public lands acquisition law, the Mineral Oils Act and Oil Pipelines Act, just to show the weakness of SPDC's case.”

“SPDC's case is even made worse by her refusal or failure to tender before the committee the instrument conferring title over the land on her.”
“In fact, the behaviour of SPDC lends strong support to the non existence of any certificate of occupancy in her favour or that if it exists at all it must have been procured by surreptitious and under and means", the committee added.

Source: Vanguard
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