By Mustapha Ogunsakin
A High Court of Rivers State sitting in Port Harcourt, and presided over by Justice Letam Nyordee has awarded a judgement of N82.7 million against Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited as compensation for one Mr Ken Ojiri whose land was affected by the company’s gas pipeline and mandatory setback.
Justice Nyordee delivered the judgement February 23, 2018 sequel to a suit filed by the plaintiff against the company.
Mr. Ojiri is the owner of a prime parcel of land measuring 13.642 plots covered with a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) which is situate at Rukpokwu in Port Harcourt. He bought the property from Spring Park Express Trust Limited in January 2011 for N106,413,840.00 (One Hundred and Six Million Four Hundred and Thirteen Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty Naira) at the rate of N7,824,547.10 (Seven Million Eight Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand Five Hundred and Forty Seven Naira Ten Kobo) per plot for the purpose of establishing a service station and other businesses.
However, in July 2011, Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited together with its estate surveyors entered, delineated a right of way and mounted survey beacons on the land without any form of notice to Mr. Ojiri. When confronted with the illegal activity, Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited 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).
But the plaintiff claimed there was no acquisition as none of the governments revoked his right of occupancy over the land till date.
One year after, TEPNLP offered the sum of N1,556,760.04 (One Million Five Hundred and Fifty Six Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Naira Four Kobo) as the compensation to Mr. Ojiri for only 2.9584 plots of land and surface rights, even though the presence of the gas pipeline condemned the entire land.The compensation was rejected by Mr. Ojiri.
Without resolving the compensation issue, the company mobilized Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, its contractor to forcefully enter the land and proceed with the construction of the high pressure gas pipeline with the aid of armed security men.
Consequently, Mr. Ojiri as Claimant promptly filed Suit No. PHC/1711/2012 against the company as Defendant where he 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 situate at Rukpokwu in Port Harcourt and covered by a Deed of Assignment dated 26th January, 2011 without the payment of the sum of N140,900,000.00 as compensation to the Claimant for the land as assessed and contained in the Professional Report dated 16th July, 2012 and N67,158.00 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 sum of N140,967,158.00 (One Hundred and Forty Million Nine Hundred and Sixty Seven Thousand One Hundred and Fifty Eight Naira) as compensation for the compulsory acquisition of the Claimant’s land, which sum is broken down as follows:
N30,555,532.64 (Thirty Million Five Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira) for 2.9584 plots of land forming the pipeline right of way at the rate of N10,328,398.00 (Ten Million Three Hundred and Twenty Eight Thousand Three Hundred and Ninety Eight Naira) per plot.
N110,344,467.40 (One Hundred and Ten Million Three Hundred and Forty Four Thousand Four Hundred and Sixty Seven Naira Forty Kobo) 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 (Ten Million Three Hundred and Twenty Eight Thousand Three Hundred and Ninety Eight Naira) per plot.
N67,158.00 (Sixty Seven Thousand One Hundred and Fifty Eight Naira) for loss of surface rights (crops and economic trees) on the Claimant’s land.
The sum of N11,500,000.00 (Eleven Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira) being and representing the cost of this litigation.
Pre-judgment interest on the sum N140,967,158.00 (One Hundred and Forty Million Nine Hundred and Sixty Seven Thousand One Hundred and Fifty Eight Naira) compounded at the rate of 22% per annum from July 2011 until judgment is delivered and thereafter at the same rate until the entire judgment sum is fully liquidated by the Defendant;
An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant either by itself, contractors, agents, assigns, servants or privies from further interfering in any manner howsoever with the Claimant’s rights over the entire parcel of the Claimant’s land or any part thereof until the Defendant pays the sum of N140,900,000.00 as compensation to the Claimant for the land as assessed and contained in the Professional Report dated 16th July, 2012, N67,158.00 for surface rights and additional sums for loss of profit and expenses;
At the conclusion of hearing, the judge found merit in the case filed by Mr. Ojiri that there was no valid acquisition of the land but however awarded the following reliefs:
the sum of N71,171,807.50 for 9 plots at the rate of N7,824,547.10 (Seven Million Eight Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand Five Hundred and Forty Seven Naira Ten Kobo) which was the price Mr. Ojiri bought each plot in January 2011
N11.5 Million being the cost Mr. Ojiri incurred in prosecuting the case
N67,158.00 being the compensation for surface rights.
10% interest per annum on the above sums from 23rd February 2018 until the entire sum is liquidated.