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Court rejects Total Nigeria Plc’s bid to bar coverage of suit

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A multinational firm, Total E&P Nigeria Plc, has failed in its bid to bar journalists from covering and reporting the proceedings of a case of alleged illegal oil export filed against it by the Federal Government.

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

It, therefore, accused it of short-changing the Fedreal Government by $245,258,640 by allegedly shipping several barrels of crude oil out of the country without making due remittance to the Federation Account.

Counsel to the firm, Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), had argued that the media reports made it appear as if his client had already been found guilty of the allegations levelled by the Federal Government. He stressed that the reports were pre-judging the case.

But in her short ruling yesterday, the trial judge, Justice Olatoregun Ishola, dismissed the application, stating that she could not bar journalists from performing their duty in court.

She reminded the counsel that the court was a public place, which was open to journalists and she, however, warned journalists to always report accurately.

The judge also granted an application by the Federal Government to amend its pleadings.

“I have gone through the affidavit and the counter-affidavit in same to front-load new facts for an amendment of originating process. The prayer of the plaintiff was to amend pleadings and same was disclosed as being urgent. The defendants failed to disclose any injury they will suffer if this application is granted.

“I find merit in granting this application to amend the process and the list of witnesses. This must be filed within 14 days from today. The defendants are at liberty to file consequential amendment if they choose to do so,” she ruled and adjourned further proceedings till January 16, 2017.



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