Godpower Nkeweke & Anor V. Nigerian Agip Oil Co. Ltd (1976) LLJR-SC

Godpower Nkeweke & Anor V. Nigerian Agip Oil Co. Ltd (1976)

LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgment Report


The appellants were the plaintiffs in a suit before the Port-Harcourt Judicial Division of the High Court of the Rivers State in which they claimed as follows: “The plaintiffs claim from the defendants the sum of £233,828 (two hundred and thirty three thousand eight hundred and twenty eight pounds) being compensation and value of economic trees, ponds, lakes, fishing creeks and juju shrines damaged and lands deprived of the plaintiffs by the defendants as a result of the defendants’ oil operation on plaintiffs’ land at OBRIKOM VILLAGE in AHOADA DIVISION within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court”.

Pleadings were ordered and duly delivered. In their amended Statement of Claim, the appellants averred inter alia as follows:

1. “The plaintiffs are members of Umuju Family of Obrikom Village in Ahoada Division and bring this action on the authority and approval of the members of the said family and with the leave of this Honourable Court.

2. The defendants are limited liability company incorporated in Nigeria and carry on the business of oil exploration and other activities connected with oil exploration.

3. The damage caused to fishing creeks, economic trees, fishing ponds, fishing lakes, juju shrines and the deprivation of lands belonging to the plaintiffs by the defendants, which are the subject matter of this suit are situated on a parcel of land known as OKUKINA in Obrikom within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court.

4. The said damaged fishing creeks, fishing lakes, fishing ponds, economic trees, juju shrines and the parcels of lands deprived the plaintiffs of by the defendants have always been the exclusive, properties of the plaintiffs.

5. In March, 1966 the defendants entered the said Okukina land while carrying out their oil exploration operations thereby caused the alleged damage.

6. On the said Okukina land, the plaintiffs have four fishing creeks, namely IHEBOM, UTU-OLU and UTU-HU, which flow to UTU.

7. The total length of the four fishing creeks is eleven miles and they contain 120 fishing ponds from which fish was caught annually.

8.Defendants blockaded UTU-OLU creek at a point near EBOCHA LOCATION 6, UTU-HU at a point near EBOCHA 5, and UTU at a point near EBOCHA LOCATION 2, all of which are situated on OKUKINA LAND. As a result of these blockades by the defendants, the level of the water upstream rose and covered a large area on both banks of the said creeks, making all fishing activities in the said creeks and the fishing ponds impossible up to the time this action was filed. The damage to the creeks and the fishing ponds is still continuing.

9. At the entrance to EBOCHA LOCATION 5 about hundred yards away from the main road leading from the pontoon waterside there was the shrine of a famous juju by name “OBILEGWE” belonging to the plaintiffs which the defendants completely destroyed. The defendants also destroyed “OKWUOMU SHRINE” another famous juju belonging to the plaintiffs which was right on the spot where the defendants now have the largest BURROW-PIT on the right hand side of the access road to EBOCHA LOCATION 6.”  These two jujus were among the most famous jujus in the whole AHOADA DIVISION. The defendants leveled the said two juju shrines to the ground and destroyed valuable antiquities.   “

10. Sometimes in August 1971, two of the defendants’ damage clerks in persons of Ijeoma and Luckyn went with the plaintiffs’ solicitor for re-assessment and one of the points mutually agreed upon by the parties was that the blockade made the level of the water rise and covered both banks of the creeks up to 50 yards in width.    The following are the names of the said fishing creeks and their lengths: (1) IHEBOM – 3 miles (2) UTU-OLU – 4 miles (3) UTU-HU – 2 miles (4) UTU – 2 miles

11. After the re-assessment, defendants in a letter to Chief Brown Ezi and Chief Thompson Nkweke Ref. LD/CWA/TLD/1172/72 dated 24th August, 1971, and copied the plaintiffs’ solicitor, apologised for the delay the defendants’ company had made in the payment of compensation for the damage defendants had caused on the plaintiffs’ land and offered £1,373.15/- (one thousand three hundred and seventy three pounds fifteen shillings) as the compensation for the damage they had caused. This was rejected by the plaintiffs since they said it was not adequate.

12. Few days after the plaintiffs had sued the defendants in court the defendants’ solicitor told the plaintiffs’ solicitor orally in his (defendants’ solicitor) chambers that the defendants were willing to pay £20 (twenty pounds) per fishing pond and settle the case out of court and promised to fix a date for the settlement”.

The relevant portions of the respondents’ Statement of Defence wherein the appellants’ averments as set out above were met read thus: “(3) As to paragraph 3 of the Statement of Claim the defendants say that adequate compensation had been assessed by agreement with the plaintiffs for the alleged damage to the plaintiffs’ fish ponds, fishing lakes and economic trees at EBOCHA LOCATIONS 5 and 6   and that the amount of compensation was offered to and accepted by the plaintiffs before the institution of this action. (6) As to paragraph 11 of the Statement of Claim the defendants admit the offer of £1,373.15/- in full and final satisfaction of a claim by the plaintiffs and that the offer was accepted by the plaintiffs, vide paragraph 3 of this Statement of Defence. (9) Wherefore, the defendants deny liability to the plaintiffs to the sum of money claimed in this action or any sum of money at all (save the agreed compensation of £1,373.15/-) and will at the trial rely on all legal and equitable defences open to them in support of a dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claim with costs to the defendants”

Both parties at the court of trial called evidence, and at the end thereof, the learned Chief Justice (Holden C.J) rejected the appellants’ case, but instead of proceeding to dismiss the claim in its entirety, preferred to enter judgment in their favour in the sum of £1,373.15/- which sum had been admitted and offered by the respondents ever before this action was commenced.

The appellants, though successful at the court of trial, have now appealed to this court and the only ground of appeal argued by learned counsel appearing on their behalf states simply: “That the judgment is against the weight of evidence”.

We were unable to appreciate the purpose of this ground of appeal, as we have already stated above that the decision of the learned Chief Justice was in the nature of a consent judgment, that is one based on the sum admitted by the respondents and no more. This admission, in our view, bore no relationship with the evidence produced by the appellants at the trial, which evidence, was itself, rightly rejected by the learned Chief Justice.    

We were in no doubt that this appeal lacked merit and therefore did not, on this account, call upon the respondents’ counsel in reply.  The appeal accordingly fails and it is dismissed. The judgment and order made by the Rivers State High Court (Port Harcourt Judicial Division) in Suit No. PHC/79/1971 on 4th June, 1973 are affirmed.    The respondents are allowed costs in this court assessed at N130 against the appellants.

Other Citation: (1976) LCN/2231(SC)

Published by

LawGlobal Hub

LawGlobal Hub is your innovative global resource of law and more. Among other things, we ensure easy accessibility to the laws of countries around the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *