By: Israel Umoh
Fifty-eight communities in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria have slammed a N500 billion suit against East Horizon Gas Ltd and Accugas-Seven Energy Ltd over non-implementation of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the host communities.
Akwa Ibom Government, Attorney General and Commissioner for Lands and Towns Planning as defendants had on May 4, 2009 entered into MoU with East Horizon Gas Ltd located at 36, Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos on behalf of the 58 villages to tap gas from Ukanafun and link pipes through other villages in the state to UNICEM in Cross River State.
The company had agreed to offer employment to indigenes of the host communities, to install a Gas Micro Turbine to generate electricity to the host communities and to locate the Gas Micro Turbine Operational Maintenance capability within Akwa Ibom.
The claimants- Mr. Kufre Emmanson John and nine others from the host communities- have sued the companies for non-implementation of the MoU resulting in them incurring huge losses and damage over the years.
The court presided over by Hon. Justice Nsemeke Daniel has given order for the prosecution of the N500 billion that would mandate the companies to provide the items or be made to pay the sum for the claimants to use in providing the facilities to the affected communities.
The court further gave order for the defaulting companies to pay N50 billion as breach of contract to the claimants to soothe their sufferings since 2009.
Among the claims canvassed for in the suit include ”The claimants aver that they are youths, women, men and chiefs representing the 58 villages in 9 local government areas in Akwa Ibom State whom the 1st & 2nd defendants constructed a natural gas pipeline from Ukanafun Local Government Area to terminate at United Cement Company (UNICEM) cement company at Akansoko in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State.
”The first defendant is a limited liability company duly incorporated under the Nigeria laws and carrying on business as natural gas distributor and marketing company with an office address at 36 Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
”The 2nd Defendant is also a limited liability company duly incorporated under the Nigerian laws and equally caring on business amongst others, distribution and marketing of natural gas with an office at 7 Anifowoshe Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
”The 3rd, 4th & 5th Defendants are government of Akwa Ibom State and her departments who negotiated and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to handover the claimants’ land to the 1st & 2nd Defendants to exploit natural gas, distribute and market or sell same to UNICEM and in return, the 1st & 2nd defendants were to comply with the terms as contained in the memo in favour of the claimants.
”The claimants aver that since after entering into the memo on their behalf, the 3rd-5th defendants who brought the 1st & 2nd Defendants to comply with the terms of the memo and hence the need to file this suit to cause the defendants to comply with the terms of the memo.”
Others are ”The claimants aver that they are women, men, youths, and chiefs of the 58 villages cutting across Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun, Oruk Anam, Abak, Uyo, Etinan, Nsit Ibom, Ibesikpo Asutan and Uruan Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State.
”The claimants aver that in about, May 2009, the 3rd, 4th, & 5th Defendants entered into a contract with the 1st Defendant to donate the land of the claimants to the size of 15 metres (in a corridor form) to run from Ukanafun Local Government Area to Oruk Anam Local Government Area, Abak Local Government Area, Uyo Local Government Area, Etinan Local Government Area, Nsit Ibom Local Government Area and Uruan Local Government Area where it enters the river and move to UNICEM in Cross River State.
”The claimants aver that since they have been having meetings orally with the 1st and 2nd defendant, in January this year 2021, the claimants took out time through their lawyer to write to the 1st & 2nd Defendants to demand their compliance with the terms of the memo but, up to the time of filing this suit, the 1st & 2nd Defendants are yet to comply or even respond to the letter written to them.
”The claimants aver that before the coming of the 1st & 2nd Defendants into their land about 12 years ago, they have been using or cultivating several crops, fruits and medicinal trees on the said land all which they have lost because of the insensitivity of the defendants.
”The claimants aver that arising from that, they have lost money, food item, fruits, medicines and several other unquantifiable materials and/or farm produce from their land for the past 12 years.’’
The case came up for first hearing last Monday, March 15 and Eyibio Okon Udo, counsel to the claimants, sought the court to grant that the originating summons be served on the Defendants before April 19, 2021.
Delivering judgment, Justice Daniel ordered that the originating process be served on the 1st and 2nd defendants outside the state jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the matter has been adjourned to April 19, 2021 for further hearing.