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From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Two applications by Malabu Oil, on Monday, stalled ruling on separate applications filed by Shell Oil Exploration Nigeria Ltd and AGIP Oil seeking to vacate an order of temporary forfeiture of the Oil Prospective Licence (OPL 245) bloc made against them by a Federal High Court Sitting in Abuja.
Malabu Oil is seeking to be joined in the case and to be heard by the court as an interested party.
Justice John Tsoho had, on Monday, fixed, to deliver ruling on the two applications by Shell and Agip.
But when the case was called, counsel to Malabu Oil, Abdullahi Haruna informed that the court of the pending applications, which he said had been served on parties and that they have responded accordingly.
Haruna also told the court that the joinder application was seeking the court to re-open hearing of the applications filed by Shell and Agip, to enable his client make contributions on them.
According to the lawyer, “the purpose is to join us as respondents.”
But responding to the applications, both counsel to Agip Babatunde Fagbohundu (SAN) and Muyiwa Balogun representing Shell, all opposed the application and urged court to dismiss them summarily.
In opposing the application, counsel to AGIP described it as frivolous and urged the court to dismiss it summarily from the bench.
Fagbola argued that when a court hears a matter and adjourns for ruling, parties cannot pull back the hands of the clock.
Citing some case laws, he further described the applications by Malabu Oil as “brigadage, very offensive and lawlessness.”
On his part, counsel to Shell, Muyiwa Balogun reminded the court that at the last adjourned date being February 27, “counsel to Malabu Oil drew the attention of the court to his applications that were yet to be filed and served, but that the court ruled that the proposed applications should be in abeyance.
‘By this applications, Malabu Oil is asking the court to sit on appeal over its own ruling. He urged the court to refuse such temptation and to dismiss the applications summarily.
Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Johnson Ojogbane did not file any application but rather left the issue at the court’s discretion.
“We did not file any application in respect of the application filed by Malabu Oil, the decision of the court will determine whether or not we will join issues with them\’ the EFCC lawyer said.
However, Haruna, pursuant to Order 27 Rule 6 of the Federal High Court rules filed what he described innocuous application, by way of motion on notice introducing a further affidavit ( criminal charge filed against the defendants) by the Federal Government before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja.
Ruling, Justice Tsoho granted leave and deemed the further affidavit as properly filed.
Though Shell and AGIP had told the court not to accord any probate value to the further affidavit (criminal charge) because it was not yet filed when their applications were argued and date fixed for ruling.
However, after taking submissions of counsels, Justice Tsoho, who expressed dismay over the applications, remarked that even though Malabu’s application was frustrating, however, in the interest of fair hearing, an application before a court must be heard.
Consequently, the court adjourned ruling on Malabu’s application to March 17.
SHELL and AGIP had told the court that Oil Prospective Licence (OPL 245) is an oil block that was validly allocated to them.
They insisted that the ex parte order asking them to forfeit OPL 245 to the FG was unconstitutional and illegal.
According to the two oil exploration companies, the EFCC should have put them on notice in the interest of fair hearing rather than securing an ex parte order.
They argued that the EFCC cannot say the order was to preserve the res (subject matter OPL 245) when in fact, the oil bloc is there and nothing is being done to tamper with it pending the determination of the matter.
But arguing, the EFCC said the Commission derived it’s power to seek for the temporary possession of OIL from Section 44 (2k) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
The anti graft agency insisted that the application and order it secured did not offend the constitution in anyway.
The EFCC maintained that it was wrong for the applicants to say that the matter be dismissed, pointing out that, this is not a civil case to say that the EFCC should have come by way of motion on notice.
OPL 245 is a subject of criminal investigation and prosecution before this court. There is a criminal charge pending before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court.
Activities surrounding OPL 245 is criminal; so, it is not just preserving the res (subject matter).
It will be a serious disservice not only to the FG but Nigerians. We are filing a criminal charge against individuals and companies involved.
We are stopping criminality from progressing in Nigeria and therefore insisted that the applications lacked merit.
Consequently, he asked the court to rule that the order of January 26 was in order.