Honourable Justice Chigozie Onnah of the Federal High Court, sitting in Uyo, has dismissed four oil spill suits instituted against Mobil with a claim of over N143 Billion Naira.

The Plaintiffs (Unwon Ama Oyorkoto Unity Fishing Cooperative Society, Mgbambop Otako Fishing Cooperative Investment and Credit Society Ltd, Oyorokoto Unity Fish Farming Cooperative, and Mr Dimkpa Ataukot) represented by Kingsley Uzoukwu, Esq. had instituted these matters against Mobil, in November 2022, at the Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, alleging that Mobil caused an oil spill to occur in their communities in the year 2012, which severely impacted the livelihood and sources of income of the Plaintiffs.

In response to the Plaintiffs’ claims, Mobil, represented by its Counsel Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, of Kenna Partners, filed preliminary objections challenging the Court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suits. Ajogwu argued that the suits were statute-barred as they were initiated beyond the limitation period stipulated under Section 16 of the Akwa Ibom State Limitation Laws, 2000.

In delivering its judgment on Thursday, May 30, 2024, the Court agreed with the submissions of Mobil’s Counsel that the Plaintiffs commenced their suits more than ten (10) years after the cause of action arose, and as a result, the suits were held to be statute-barred. According to our correspondents, the Court further upheld Mobil’s argument that even if there were indeed oil spill incidents, the Plaintiffs’ cases were at best, hinged on the continuing effect of the alleged spills as against continuation of the oil spill incidents. The Court accordingly dismissed all the claims by the Plaintiffs.

This notable judgments reaffirm the legal principle that the recognised exception to limitation law is continuous injury (which is the repetition of legal injury and not merely the continuous effects of a legal injury).

Mike Ojo

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