The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday granted a garnishee order absolute on the Central Bank of Nigeria to release N81.9 billion to Ibeno LGA in Akwa Ibom.
The money is standing to the credit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and it’s joint venture partner, Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo gave the order while ruling on a garnishee nisi proceeding.
The community instituted a suit against NNPC, Mobil and ExxonMobil Corporation seeking about N100 billion compensation for economic losses suffered from oil spillages caused by the defendants during exploration.
The oil communities, led by Effiong Archianga and nine others, had through their lawyer, Lucius Nwosu, sought redress over oil spillage in the area.
In its judgement on June 21, 2021, the court awarded N81.9 billion to the plaintiffs, who are now judgement creditors, and ordered that the money be paid within 14 days after which eight per cent interest would be accruable on the principal sum annually.
However, on December 15, 2021, in a garnishee nisi proceeding, the CBN insisted that it must get the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation before enforcing the garnishee judgement.
The judge dismissed the CBN’s claim and ordered it to release funds belonging to NNPC and Mobil to the tune of N81.9 billion to the judgement creditor.
The court said it was wrong for the apex bank to say it had to get consent from the Attorney-General before attaching the judgement debt, insisting that the CBN was not a public officer.
“The January, 2022 application is hereby refused, the order nisi is made absolute against the CBN,” Mr Taiwo ordered.
He dismissed an application challenging the service of garnishee order nisi on the judgement debtor.
The judge said that the coming into force of the Petroleum Industry Act had altered the name of the NNPC and not its identity.
He added that the CEO, directors and employees of NNPC were still the ones working for the NNPC Ltd.