A Port Harcourt High Court has ordered Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited to pay Mr. Ken Ojiri’s N82.7 million for illegal acquisition of his land.
Delivering judgment in a suit filed by Ojiri against Total, Justice Lefam Nyordee held that the oil firm did not validly acquire the land for its operation.
The claimant is the owner of a parcel of land measuring 13.642 plots at Rukpokwu in Port Harcourt and covered by a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).
Ojiri’s vendor, Spring Park Express Trust Limited in a related suit marked No. PHC/1636/2012 (Spring Park Express Trust Limited vs Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited) with similar prayers also obtained similar judgment against the company on the same date.
In his statement of claims, Ojiri averred that he bought the land from Spring Park Express Trust Limited in January 2011 for N106,413,840 at the rate of N7,824,547.10 per plot for the purpose of establishing a service station and other businesses.
He claimed that in July 2011, Total Exploration, together with its estate surveyors entered, delineated a right of way and mounted survey beacons on the land without any form of notice to him.
He averred that when confronted with the illegal activity, Total claimed that the land had been jointly acquired by the Federal Government of Nigeria and Government of Rivers State for them to construct a high pressure gas pipeline, the Northern Option Pipeline (NOPL).
The claimant averred that he found out much later that there was no acquisition on the land as none of the two levels of governments revoked his right of occupancy over the land till date.
He claimed that about one year later, Total offered him N1,556,760.04 as compensation for only 2.9584 plots of land and surface rights, in spite of the presence of the gas pipeline which has defaced and damaged the entire land.
The claimant averred that the compensation offered by the company was rejected and that without resolving the compensation issue, the company mobilised Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, its contractor to forcibly enter the land and proceed with the construction of the high pressure gas pipeline.
Consequently, he filed Suit No. PHC/1711/2012 against the company and claimed the following reliefs: “a declaration that the defendant, being a private limited liability company, has no right to compulsorily acquire, enter or embark on any form of activity pursuant to the Oil Pipeline Licence No. 1489 on any part of the claimant’s land measuring 13.642 plots and situated at Rukpokwu in Port Harcourt and covered by a Deed of Assignment dated January 26, 2011 without the payment of the sum of N140.9million as compensation to the claimant for the land as assessed and contained in the Professional Report dated July 16, 2012 and N67,158 for surface right.
“A declaration that the claimant having purchased his land for business purpose is also entitled to compensation for loss of profit and expenses as a result of the Defendant’s interference with the claimant’s land.
The claimant had prayed the court for N140,967,158 as compensation for the compulsory acquisition of the land, which sum is broken down as follows: N30,555,532.64 for 2.9584 plots of land forming the pipeline right of way at the rate of N10,328,398 per plot; a sum of N110,344,467.40 for 10.6836 plots of land forming the area divided into two by the pipeline and injuriously affected and rendered completely useless at the rate of N10,328,398.00 per plot; a sum of N67,158 for loss of surface rights (crops and economic trees) on the claimant’s land and a sum of N11.5milion being and representing the cost of this litigation.
He asked the court for pre-judgment interest on the sum N140,967,158 compounded at the rate of 22 per cent per year from July 2011 until judgment is delivered and thereafter at the same rate until the judgment sum is fully liquidated by the defendant.
The claimant in addition prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from further interfering in any manner howsoever with the claimant’s rights over the entire parcel of the land or any part thereof until the defendant pays the sum of N140.9million as compensation to the claimant for the land as assessed and contained in the Professional Report dated July 16, 2012, N67,158 for surface rights and additional sums for loss of profit and expenses.
In his judgment, Justice Nyordee awarded the following reliefs in favour of the claimant: N71,171,807.50 for nine plots at the rate of N7,824,547.10, which was the price Mr. Ojiri bought each plot in January 2011; a sum of N11.5 million being the cost incurred by the claimant in prosecuting the case; a sum of N67,158 being the compensation for surface rights and 10 per cent interest per annum on the above sums from February 23, 2018 until the entire sum is liquidated.
Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited has filed an appeal against the judgment.
11 April, 2018