Nigeria Can Sue Chevron, Total Over Illegal Exports, Judge Says

  • Trials against oil companies to begin on Oct. 26, judge says
  • Government alleges ‘under-declarations’ in crude exports

Nigeria’s government can take the local units of Chevron Corp. and Total SA to trial for illegally exporting oil, a judge said.

Justice Cecilia Olatoregun dismissed claims from the companies that they had no cases to answer at a hearing in the Federal High Court in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, on Friday. The trials will begin on Oct. 26, she said.

“The government is seeking revenues that it lost due to under-declarations” of exports, Fabian Ajogwu, a lawyer for the government, said to reporters after the hearing. “Essentially, we will go into trial.”

Miannaya Essien, representing Chevron, and Babatunde Fagbohun, a lawyer for Total, declined to comment.

Nigeria is taking several international oil companies -- including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Eni SpA and Petroleo Brasileiro SA -- to court allegedly for failing to declare more than 57 million barrels of crude exports between 2011 and 2014. The government says the oil was worth about $13 billion, according to the Associated Press. Nigeria’s lower house of parliament said last week it ordered a separate investigation into whether as much as $17 billion of fuel exports were stolen during the period.

Petrobras’s next hearing will be on Oct. 10 and Shell’s on Oct. 20, according to court documents. The next hearing for Eni’s Agip is due 31 Oct.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in May 2015, has said that “mind-boggling” sums of money have disappeared from Nigeria’s oil industry. The economy, battered by crude prices more than halving since 2014, is heading for its first recession this year since 1991, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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