Illegal oil lifting : Court fines FG over delayed proceedings

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos Southwest Nigeria on Monday ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay a fine of N15,000 while granting an application filed to amend its processes in a suit filed against Total E&P Nig. Plc, and Chevron Nigeria Plc over alleged under-declaration and undeclared of crude oil exports running into millions of dollars.

The Federal Government of Nigeria had sued Total E&P Nigeria Plc, alleging that it under-declared the volume of crude oil it shipped out of the country between January 2011 and December 2014.

Federal Government accused the oil company of short-changing it to the tune of 245 million dollars, by allegedly shipping several barrels of crude oil out of Nigeria, without making due remittance to the federal government account.

At the resumed hearing of the case today, Mr Charles Nwabulu appearing for the Federal Government informed the court of an application he filed before the court seeking leave to amend plaintiff’s pleadings. The application was accompanied with an affidavit of urgency.

Nwabulu said his application was premised on the provisions of Order 17 rules 1, 2, and 3 as well as sections 36 of the 1999 constitution.

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He urged the court to grant the plaintiff’s application and allow an amendment.

In his response, the defence counsel, Mr H. Abdulkareem, said he was not opposed to the prayer for amendment, but urged the court to put it on record that the plaintiff had made several amendments in the suit. This development had neccesitated the defence to make a consequential amendment on its statement of defence.

Mr Abdukareem also prayed the court while granting order for amendment of the plaintiff’s processes, a time frame should be afforded the defence to regularise its statement of defence.

The presiding judge, Mojisola Olatoregun then enquired from counsel to the plaintiff, how many times he had amended his processes.

Nwabulu informed the court that he had amended twice.

Consequently, Justice Olatoregun while granting the Federal Government application to amend its pleadings adjourned the case to March 23, 2017

In a similar suit filed by the Federal government against Chevron Nigeria Ltd.

Nwabulu also made a similar application to amend Federal Government’s processes before the court. The application was also supported by an affidavit of urgency.

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Justice Olatoregun, however, chided the Federal Government counsel for showing what she described as “unseriousness” in the suit, adding that the case had been on for a long time, with no remarkable progress.

She noted that the matter was adjourned till today for commencement of trial, and asked the plaintiff for its witnesses.

Justice Olatoregun frowned at the habit of “pushing processes” instead of focusing on the business of the day, adding that it was an unacceptable practice.

She urged counsel to exhibit due diligence in the matter.

Meanwhile, defence counsel Mrs Mainnaya Essien SAN informed the court that inspite of serving the plaintiff with a memorandum of appearance, the plaintiff still served processes directly on her client, instead of her chambers.

In response, Nwabulu apologised for the error adding that same will be redressed.

Consequently, the court granted the Federal Government application for amendment, but awarded a cost of N15,000 against the Federal Government
and also fixed March 23 for trial.

The Federal Government through its lawyer, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), filed the suits following a forensic analysis.

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The analysis was said to be linking decline in oil revenue to alleged non-declaration or under-declaration of volume of crude oil shipped out of the country by Total and other oil companies.

The Federal Government’s statements of claims were backed by supporting affidavits deposed to by three United States of America-based experts.

According to the deponents, about 57 million barrels of crude oil were allegedly illegally exported by the defendants.

He said these were sold to buyers in the US between January 2011 and December 2014 without making due remittance to the Federal Government account.

Federal Government claimed to have uncovered the alleged illegality using high-technology information technology system, including satellite tracking systems, which were deployed by its consultants.

Federal Government of Nigeria in a bid to recover various sums of money value of the shortfall in the lifting of the Nigerian crude oil dragged the two oil companies TOTAL E &P NIGERIA LIMITED AND Chevron Plc before the court.

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