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Tribute to a Dogged, Selfless Environmental Lawyer, Lucius Nwosu

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It would not be out of place to input the saying: “He came, he saw and conquered” on legal luminary and environmentalist, late Lucius Ezeakammadu Nwosu (SAN). This is so not because of the many legal victories to his credit but the joy he brought to many Niger Delta communities, who but for the late Nwosu would have been wiped out by environmental degradation occasioned by the activities of oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.

 

The late Nwosu is a rare gem, who like Moses, chose to suffer with the oppressed Israelites than enjoy the pleasures and fancies of the palace of Pharaoh by making the issue of environmental degradation his personal cross.

 

Having a father, who worked for the Shell Petroleum Development Company and one who himself worked with the oil giant while as a secondary school student, one would have expected that the fiery lawyer would have upon graduation from university, sought a juicy position in any of the major oil companies but, rather chose to be on the other side in order to fight the rising environmental and oil pollution in the Niger Delta region.

 

Although the light may be said to have dimmed for one of Nigeria’s respected environmental rights lawyer and philanthropist, no doubt the late senior lawyer had left his marks on the sand of times. To many, he is a true lion at the bar, whose quiet and peaceful exit was uncharacteristic of him because he was not a man of the people, egalitarian and effervescent. He cannot enter a place without people noticing. But as the Igbos would say, that is how he and his “Chi” (God) made their covenant.

 

Lucius Ezeakamadu Nwosu lived the full force of his name. He abhorred cant, and detested injustice and oppression. Born 70 years ago, he hails from Udo Ezihinitte Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State; attended St. Nicholas Primary School, Oro-Evo, Woji, Port Harcourt, Rivers State from 1958 to 1961; All Saints Primary School, Udo, Ezinihitte Mbaise from 1962 to 1963, and Mater Miseri Cordae Primary School, Rumoamasi, Obio-Akpor, Port Harcourt, Rivers State from 1964 to 1965. He was also at Our Lady Lourdes Secondary School, Ozuoba, Port Harcourt; Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori-Ogoni from 1966 to 1967 and Government College, Umuahia, Abia State.

 

After his secondary education, he engaged in personal studies through which he obtained his GCE ‘A’ Level and thereafter proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus where he studied Law from 1976 to 1980. He did his Law school programme at the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos and was called to the Nigerian Bar in July 1981. Nwosu began working while he was still a secondary school student as he was employed as a contract staff in the Land and Legal Department of the Shell British Petroleum Company of Nigeria Limited in 1973 and in the Hydrocarbon Division of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Power, Port Harcourt from October 1975 to September 1976.

 

After qualifying as a lawyer, the late Nwosu, commenced his legal practice as a member of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the law firm of D. A Akintoye & Co, Ilorin, Kwara State from 1981-1982. From August 1982-1986, he delved into rigorous legal practice, starting as a junior counsel at Sotonye-Denton West & Co. In August 1986, he established the law firm of Lucius E. Nwosu & Partners with the firm’s range of practice and expertise spanning tortuous hydrocarbon environmental law, bankruptcy, conversion of landed hereditaments, oil and gas law, energy, corporate law and real estate.

 

As any Port Harcourt boy, Nwosu loved the city, but was enraged by the misfortune which oil brought to the otherwise “garden city” of his birth. To his chagrin, there were no gardens left in Port Harcourt; instead, soothing now falls from the skies on everything from its polluted environment. Proximity to this environmental anomaly and tragedy compelled Lucius Nwosu to act rather than flee. F,rom then on, he devoted his legal mind to fighting for environmental justice for the helpless people of the oil rich Niger Delta.

 

As one of Nigeria’s foremost environmental law specialist and practitioner, Nwosu, over the years, applied his brilliance, doggedness, perseverance and selflessness in offering excellent legal services to his various clients and particularly to the Niger Delta communities for whom he waged many battles against environmental degradation and pollution, battles through which he often obtained reprieve for communities in the oil producing regions of Nigeria. Characteristically, he often worked for these communities on a contingency basis as he disliked placing a burden on his clients by demanding professional fees prior to rendering his outstanding professional services.

 

Amongst the remarkable cases to his credit included:1. SPDC vs. Farah (1995)3 NWLR Pt.382 where he contributed significantly to jurisprudence in the area of Heads of Claim in compensation matters.

 

2. Consolidated Suit Nos. FHC/PH/CS/84 & 85/94: CHIEF T. EDAMKUE VS SPDC. where he contributed significantly to jurisprudence in the area of Representative Actions and Heads of Claim in compensation matters recovered damages in torts arising from the spillage of crude hydrocarbon from the polluter for the Duboro and the Baen communities of Ogoni land. The decision of the Federal High Court was upheld by the Supreme Court and is reported as SPDC Vs Edamkue (2009) LPELR- 3048(SC).

 

3. Consolidated Suit Nos: FHC/CA/CS/30/98 and FHC/CA/31/98: CHIEF (HON.) SIMEON MONOKPO & ANOR VS. MOBIL PRODUCING NIGERIA UNLIMITED & ANOR. where he contributed significantly to jurisprudence in the area of trial proceedings in Civil Litigation and recovered damages in torts arising from the spillage of crude hydrocarbon from the polluter for his Ogoni and Ikot Abasi Clients.

 

The decision of the Federal High Court was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court (SC/20/2001) where the apex court ordered a trial de novo. The suits (subsequently re-numbered as FHC/UY/CS/57 & 58/2004) were settled out-of-court as the polluter preferred not to face Lucius during a fresh trial.

 

4. Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/248/98 – HIS MAJESTY CHIEF (DR.) ALFRED PAPAPREYE DIETE-SPIFF & 7 ORS. vs. MOBIL PRODUCING NIGERIA UNLIMITED & MOBIL INCORPORATION OF USA where he obtained judgment from the Federal High Court and eventually recovered damages in torts arising from the spillage of crude hydrocarbon from the polluter for the Peoples of Twon Brass in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

 

5. Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/354/98: HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS, S.O.E ARONG & 16 ORS. vs. MOBIL PRODUCING NIGERIA UNLIMITED & MOBIL INCORPORATION OF USA where he also obtained judgment from the Federal High Court and eventually recovered damages in torts arising from the spillage of crude hydrocarbon from the polluter for the people of Andoni/Ngo Clan of Rivers State.

 

6. Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/353/98: CHIEF M. O. JACK WILSON PEPPLE & 3 ORS vs. MOBIL PRODUCING NIGERIA UNLIMITED & MOBIL INCORPORATION OF USA for where he obtained Judgment from the Federal High Court and eventually recovered damages in torts arising from the spillage of crude hydrocarbon from the polluter for the Amanyanabo of Bonny in Council, Chiefs, Elders and people of Bonny Kingdom of Rivers State.

 

7. Suit No. FHC/PH/CP/11/2000 – SIR KOLOINDI ANISO & ORS. (for themselves and on behalf of the entire people of Odi Community in the Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA of Bayelsa State) vs. THE PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA & 3 ORS. Here Lucius E. Nwosu, SAN leading his learned brothers, R. A. Lawal-Rabanna, SAN and I. A. Adedipe, SAN recovered compensation from the Federal Government for the Odi community who were massacred and their community destroyed following military operations targeted at “militants”.

 

8. Suit No: PHC/1950/2007: DAGOGO WILLIAM BROWN & ORS. vs. SPDC where Lucius represented the Chiefs, Elders and entire members of Buoye Omuso Brown Major House of Finima and on behalf of His Majesty, King Edward Asimini William Dappa-Pepple, (perekule XI) The Amanyanabo of Grand Bonny, The Bonny Chiefs Council, Elders and the entire peoples of Grand Bonny and successfully got Judgment from the Rivers State High Court setting aside a Certificate of Occupancy illegally obtained by Shell over a section of the Bonny land which they have been using for their Oil Terminal operations. Shell’s Appeals from this decision through the Court of Appeals right up to the Supreme Court were dismissed and ownership of the said land reverted to the respective Bonny people.

 

9. Suit No. PHC/1198/2005: SPDC VS. AMADI. In this case, Lucius E. Nwosu, SAN also got Judgment from the Rivers State High Court setting aside a Certificate of Occupancy illegally obtained by Shell over a section of the Rumucheta and Rumukwurukuru Families of Mbgesilaru Town, Okporo, Port Harcourt land which Shell uses for their Residential Area along Aba road, Port Harcourt. Shell’s Appeals from this decision through the Court of Appeals right up to the Supreme Court were dismissed and ownership of the said lands reverted to the Rumucheta and Rumukwurukuru Families of Mbgesilaru Town, Okporo, Port Harcourt.

 

10. Suit No. PHC/321/2006: PRINCE RAY ELEWA & ANOR. VS SPDC. Here Lucius similarly got Judgment from the Rivers State High Court setting aside a Certificate of Occupancy illegally obtained by Shell over a section of the Rumuibekwe Family land which Shell uses for their Residential Area along Aba Road, Port Harcourt. Shell’s Appeals from this decision through the Courts were dismissed and ownership of the said land reverted to the Rumuibekwe people.

 

11. Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/434 /2012: HRH SIR (DR.) BENSON M.H. EGWENRE, JP (ORUK XV) VS. SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY OF NIGERIA LIMITED & SHELL INTERNATIONAL EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION BV.In this suit, Lucius successfully represented the Ataba Community in the Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State at the Federal High Court, obtained Judgment against Shell and her parent companies whereupon they opted to have the matter settled and the Plaintiff’s environment which they polluted, cleaned-up.

 

12. Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/435/2012: CHIEF PATRICK POROBUNU & ORS. vs. SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY OF NIGERIA LIMITED & SHELL INTERNATIONAL EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION BV. In this suit, Lucius successfully represented the members of the Gan Zorkpa Kindred of Tekuru Island, Bodo in Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers State at the Federal High Court, obtained Judgment against Shell and her parent companies whereupon they opted to have the matter settled and the Plaintiff’s environment which they polluted, cleaned-up.

 

13. Suit No. FHCAB/CS/774/2011: FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE vs. NNPC & 4 Ors. In this suit, Lucius successfully represented the Federal Inland Revenue Service and Nigeria as a whole, where the International Oil Companies (I.O.C) sought through unconstitutional foreign Arbitrations, reliefs to “Stop NNPC from Lifting its Share of Oil from Nigeria’s wells till the I.O.Cs had lifted enough Oil to cover unsanctioned back taxes, and a combined claim of Ten Billion Eighty Five Million United States Dollars ( $10.85 Billion USD) ”

 

14. Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/231/2001: CHIEF ISAAC OSARO AGBARA & ORS. vs. THE SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY OF NIGERIA LIMITED & ORS. – The Ejama people’s claims for environmental pollution and remediation in this suit lasted for 30 years in various Courts in Nigeria including four Appeals to the Supreme Court by Shell and her parent companies. Lucius succeeded in obtaining compensation for the Ejama people in 2021 following the 2010 Judgment of the Federal High Court in their favour. This suit further demonstrated his long-staying abilities in the conduct of cases.

 

15. Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/54/2012: HRH OBONG (DR.) EFFIONG B. ARCHIANGA (JP) & 9 ORS. vs NIGERIAN NATIONAL PETROLEUM CORPORATION & 2 ORS. – Here, Lucius obtained the Judgment of the Federal High Court at the suit of the Ibeno Clan in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State people for the colossal crude hydrocarbon spills from Mobil’s facilities which devastated their homestead. The matter is on Appeal.

 

Nwosu was married to Dr. (Mrs.) Chinelo J. Nwosu and the union is blessed with five children. His hobbies included boating and travelling.

Culled from THISDAY

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