Tue. Apr 20th, 2021

Marginal Oil Field: Court Fixes June 26, For Hearing of Petroleum Minister, DPR’s Applications

Marginal Oil Field: Court Fixes June 26, For Hearing of Petroleum Minister, DPR’s Applications 

Further hearing in the suit filed by 10 Marginal Field Operators (MFO) against the  Minister of Petroleum Resource and two others, over alleged revocation of the marginal Field by the Federal government,  has been adjourned till Friday, June 26, 2020.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Lagos Federal High Court, Lagos, today, adjourned the hearing of of Petroleum Minister and Engineer Auwalu Sarki, a Director in the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPP) in the suit, following the plea for adjournment made by the counsel to the Marginal Field Operators, Uche Nwokedi (SAN), who told the court that he needed time to respond to the all applications fied by the defendants

Justice Aneke, had on June 3, while granting the exparte application filed and argued by the counsel to the Marginal Field Operators, restrained the Federal government, through Minister of Petroleum Resources, Attorney-General of the Federation and Engineer Auwalu Sarki, a Director of Petroleum Resources, who were defendants in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/597/2020, from revocating the the Oil field from the Operators, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

The marginal field operators are; Associated Oil & Gas Limited, Dansaki Petroleum Limited; Bayelsa Oil Limited; Bicta Energy and Management Systems Limited: Del-Sigma Petroleum Nigeria Limited; Sogenal Energy Limited; Independent Energy Limited; Sahara Energy; African Oil & Gas Limited and Goland Petroleum Limited.

In urging the court to grant the exparte application, the Marginal Field Operators, through their lawyers alleged that they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the production and development of the affected marginal fields. Adding that the purported revocation of their awards of marginal fields by the government violated their constitutional rights to fair hearing, their rights under the Petroleum Act and under the guidelines governing marginal fields in Nigeria.

They also urged the court to halt the attempt by the federal government to include the affected marginal fields in the next bidding rounds for award of marginal fields as it recently announced pending the determination of the substantive suit.

Justice Aneke, after listening to the submission from the lawyers to the Marginal Operators, had granted the application, while adjourned till June 26, 2020, for hearing of all defendants and others’ applications.

However, when the matter came up for hearing today, following an application to abridge the time for hearing of the substantive suit, file and argued by Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN), Adewale Olawoyin (SAN) and Adebayo Ologe, counsel to the Minister of Petroleum Resources and Engineer Auwalu Sarki.

Minister of Petroleum and others, through their counsel, told the court that they are having two applications, which were application for granting them leaves to file further affidavit and reply on point of law in response to the plaintiffs’ motion on notice dates June 17, 2020.

Oyeyipo (SAN) who led the defence team, told the court that all the processes have been served on the plaintiffs and tgat they are ready to go on for the hearing of the applications.

However, Mr. Nwokedi (SAN) who led the plaintiffs team, told the court that they have just been served with the defendants’ responses and needed time to go through them.

The Minister of Petroleum Resources and Engineer Auwalu Sarki, a director in the department of Petroleum Resources, in a 10-paragraph affidavit in support of their motion on notice dated June 11, 2020, deposed to by Oreoluwa Adelakun,a lawyer in the Law firm of  and Legal Practitioner of May & Ivory, stated that on Thursday June 11, 2020, they filed to an affidavit of 8 paragraphs in support of their application seeking inter-alia to set aside service of court processes as well as the orders of interlocutory injunction made by this Honourable Court on June 3, 2020. 

The deponent stated that she have saw and carefully perused the counter affidavit of 18 paragraphs sworn by Joshua Ayanda on 18/06/2020 on behalf of the plaintiffs in opposition to the first and third defendants’ aforesaid application. adding that upon seen and carefully perused all the documents attached to the plaintiffs’ counter affidavit as exhibited, she verily believe that the depositions in the said counter affidavit are mostly untrue and misleading. 

She stated that she was informed by Augustine Okwah, Deputy Chief Legal Officer of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) at 7, Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos at about 5:30pm on Friday, June 19, 2020 in a telephone conference, that contrary to the depositions in the plaintiffs’ counter 
affidavit sworn by Joshua Ayanda, since the relax in the lockdown imposed by the Federal Government on Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja due to the outbreak of Covid19, the DPR (in compliance with the Circular issued by the Head of Service of the Federation) has been operating only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the week with senior officers on grade level (GL) 14 and above; 

She also stated that in view of the fact stated, there has been extremely limited access to the premises of the DPR. Lagos by visitors and members of the public; 
for visitors coming into the premises and or any of the 9 floors of the DPR, Lagos, the standard procedure to be observed (among others) includes a mandatory entry of the visitor’s details information in the separate Visitors’ Registers on the ground floor and of the particular floor(s) being visited.

And that upon a careful look through the Visitors Registers for both the ground floor and the 9th floor which houses the Legal Division of the DPR. there is no record of the DPR and or its Legal Division receiving any visitors with the names Joshua Ayanda and Daniel Olusegun Paul on Friday May 29, 2020 or at any other date; and that indeed, a look through the Visitors Register for the 9th floor (which houses the Legal Division of the DPR) reveals that the 9th floor received only 7 visitors on Friday 29/05/2020 and that
there was also no officer of the Legal Division of the DPR specifically designated to oversee the receipt of processes and or documents from visitors. 

She stated that receipt of processes and documents in general for the entire DPR is centrally coordinated by the Mail Room attached to the office of the Director, DPR, Lagos. And that upon a careful look through the records of the said Mail Room from Friday May 29, 2020 till date, there is no evidence of the DPR and or its Legal Division being in receipt of any court process in respect of this suit. 

She also stated that having been informed by Augustine Okwah, Deputy Chief Legal Officer of the same address, on the same date, at the same time and in the same circumstances, while is contrary to the depositions of the plaintiffs’ counter affidavit sworn by Joshua Ayanda: and that the DPR, its Director (Engineer Auwalu Sarki) and the Legal Division never received either by hand or by e-maii at (info@dpr.gov. 1) any court process in respect of this suit on Saturday May 30, 2020 or Monday June 1, 2020 or on any other date. 

She averred that the first and third defendants only became aware of the pendency of the instant court action vide a wide coverage of the grant of interlocutory orders of injunction by this Honourable Court in the traditional and social media at the early hours of Thursday June 4, 2020 and that the two defendants never had notice of the pendency of this suit neither were they served with court processes or notice of hearing or the applications for order of injunction which was heard and granted on June 3, 2020. 

She stated that by reason of his position, it will be in the interest of justice to set aside, discharge and/or vacate in its entirety the interlocutory orders of injunction pronounced by the Court on June 3, 2020, in favour of the plaintiffs.