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Nigerian court orders Shell to hand over oil terminal land

Shells oil and gas terminal on Bonny Island in southern Nigerias Niger Delta

Shell's oil and gas terminal on Bonny Island in southern Nigeria's Niger Delta

LAGOS (AFP) — A Nigerian court has ordered Shell to hand over land around its giant Bonny oil terminal to the local population, a key demand of armed rebels in the volatile region, the Anglo-Dutch group said Wednesday.

“The ruling was given some months ago but we have appealed,” Shell’s spokesman in Nigeria, Precious Okolobo, told AFP.

He didn’t say whether oil lifting and export activities at the terminal, considered to be the largest Africa, would be affected by the ruling.

There was no immediate explanation as to why the decision was only made public now, several months after the ruling was handed down.

Local media said the Bonny people had filed a suit accusing Shell of secretly obtaining a certificate of occupancy on the property from the Rivers state government.

They argued that under the July 1958 agreement between the two parties, Shell was only a tenant on the land while the Bonny people remained the landlord.

Industry sources say the terminal has storage capacity of over 12 million barrels of crude, and is equipped with a helicopter landing pad, a facility capable of loading super tankers, an indoor berthing facility to take six ocean-going tankers, an expatriate club and residential quarters.

The lawsuit may hurt Shell’s operations in Nigeria which have already been badly dented by unrest in the volatile Niger Delta region.

Sabotage on Shell’s facilities in and around Bonny has caused the company to twice declare force majeure on its exports from there in the past three months.

Force majeure allows a company to cite exceptional circumstances which enable it to suspend its contractual obligations.

The return of land is a key demand of rebel groups — such as the main Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta — who say they are fighting for a larger share of Nigeria’s oil revenue to go to local populations.

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