Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday convicted First Bank of Nigeria Limited; its chairman, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika; and managing director, Mr Adesola Adeduntan, of contempt of court.
The court dismissed their preliminary objection to a contempt charge filed against them by Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The court found them guilty of refusal of the bank to release N17bn and interests that First Bank allegedly guaranteed to pay the community on behalf of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited.
The bond is in respect of judgment debt against SPDC in an oil spill suit filed by the community.
Mr Ibrahim Buba, however, suspended the sentence for three months to enable the bank and its officials purge themselves of the contempt.
The judge said if the convicts failed to purge themselves of the contempt by September 6, they would be sent to prison.
Ten indigenes of Ejama community in Ogoniland had sued Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Netherlands; Royal Dutch Shell Plc, United Kingdom; and SPDC at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt over alleged oil spills that occurred when Shell operated in the community.
Buba, who heard the case while sitting in Port Harcourt, awarded N17bn to the community’s representatives in 2010, as well as 25 per cent interest on the principal sum, among other reliefs.
Shell appealed the judgment and applied for a stay of execution pending the appeal.