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FG, others lose bid to frustrate Abacha’s suit in Malabu oil deal

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja
23 December 2020   |   3:08 am
The Federal High Court, Abuja has declined moves by the Federal Government, Shell Nigeria Exploration, Nigeria Agip Exploration Company and others to stall hearing of a suit seeking to reclaim the Oil Prospecting Licence

Abacha

The Federal High Court, Abuja has declined moves by the Federal Government, Shell Nigeria Exploration, Nigeria Agip Exploration Company and others to stall hearing of a suit seeking to reclaim the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245.

The permit was originally awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.

The suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/201/2017, was filed in the name of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited by Mohammed Sani Abacha, son of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, who claimed to own majority shares in the oil firm.

In a ruling yesterday, Justice Binta Nyako dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the defendants, insisting that the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

Against the contention by the defendants, the judge also held that the suit was not caught by the Public Officers Protection Act and as such was not statute-barred.

The presiding judge further ruled that the plaintiff was right to have included the Minister of Petroleum as a defendant since the minister, being a juristic personality, can sue and be sued.

Justice Nyako held that the suit did not amount to an abuse of the court process, as the plaintiff rightly instituted the case.

According to the judge, “no evidence exists that issues raised have not been determined by any other court.”

After lawyers to the parties, including Reuben Atabo (for the plaintiff), assured the court that they were ready to proceed with the hearing of the substantive suit, Justice Nyako adjourned till March 9, 2021, for hearing.

Defendants in the suit include the Federal Government of Nigeria, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd., Nigeria Agip Exploration Company Ltd., as well as former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.

In its statement of claim, the plaintiff stated among others, that it was not part of the purported allocation of the OPL 245 to Shell and Agip, and for which they allegedly paid $1.3 billion to Etete, with the FG providing the account into which it was paid as its actual shareholders were excluded from the process.

The plaintiff added that it was also not part of the Bloc 245 Resolution Agreement of April 29, 2011, entered between the FG, Shell, Agip, and Etete, purporting to represent Malabu Oil, adding that it “did not relinquish any or all of its rights and interests in OPL 245 to any person or persons.”

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