From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

An Upper Area Court sitting in Abuja has issued criminal summons against Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and seven of its top executives over the alleged theft of 16 million barrels of crude oil through a fraudulent and unapproved metering system.

The judge of the court sitting in Zuba, Gambo Garba, issued the summons on Thursday following a direct criminal complaint filed by the African Initiative Against Abuse of Public Trust.

In the said complaint, the group is urging the court to convict the Shell executives for alleged criminal acts of conspiracy, theft, and cheating which are in violation of Sections 97, 287 and 323 of the Penal Code Law Cap 89 Law of Northern Nigeria, 1963.

Those summoned by the court include Captain Callium Finlayson, Chibueze Uduanochie, Simon Ruddy, Bashir Bello, Osagie Okunbor, Igo Weli and Toyin Olagunyi.

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The direct criminal complaint was filed by Obed Agu pursuant to section 88 and 89 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

The group alleges that as operators of the Bonny Terminal, Shell installed an unapproved metering system which it claimed was temporary and which it manipulated to deliberately understate the volume of crude oil that was injected to the terminal, thereby shortchanging the local oil companies, owners of the oil, and the federal government the revenue due to them.

The oil companies include Belema Oil, Eroton, AITEO and Newcross.

From the court papers, the group alleged that the Department of Petroleum Resources has conducted investigations into the allegations and has indicted SPDC. They also allege that Shell has admitted to having cheated the companies of about 2 million barrels and also committed to refund the crude to the companies.
The group say they will be pressing for the maximum punishment which is 6 months in jail for conspiracy, 5 years for theft and 5 years for cheating.