A Federal High Court, Lagos, today, set-aside its earlier order restraining the Federal government from withdrawing licenses from 10 Marginal Oil Field Operators.
The court presided over by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, set-aside the restraining order, while delivering ruling in a motion brought before it by the Ministry of Petroleum and Engineer Auwaul Sarki, a director in the Department Petroleum Resources (DPR), on the ground that they were not properly served with the court processes.
The court presided over Justice Aneke, had on June 3, restrained the Federal government through the Ministry of Petroleum, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Engineer Auwalu Sarki, a director in Depertment of Petrolum Resources (DPR). While also ordered that the order and processes in the motion on notice be served personally on the respondents.
Justice Aneke had made the restraining order after listened to an exparte application filed and argued by their lawyers led by Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Mr. Uche Nwokedi (SAN).
However, the Marginal Oil Field Operators, had told the court that the order and other processes in the suit were served on the respondents via their official e-mail address.
In set-aside the restraining order, today, Justice Aneke, after citing plethora of Supreme Court’s authorities, held that the Marginal Oil Operators failed to comply with the court order, which directed then to serve all the processes on the respondents’ address, which he said was contrary to the Rules of Admissibility.
Justice Aneke also held that the Practice Direction which the applicants based the service of the processes on the respondents can not supersede Court Rule, but ought to compliment it.
Consequently, the judge thereby set-aside the restraining order made on June 3, 2020, against the respondents. While ordered that the whole processes commence De Novo (afresh).
After the restraining order was set-aside, counsel to the 10 Marginal Oil Operators, Oyetibo (SAN), pleaded with the court to urges the counsel to the respondents to accept the devices of the processes on behalf of their clients.
He also urged the court to make an order or urged the respondents to to tamper with the subject matter in the suit, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Responding, counsel to the respondents, Dr. Olawoyin (SAN), while conceding to accept the processes in the suit on behalf of his clients, also promised that the government will not do anything with the subject matter until the determination of the suit.
Following the submissions of the parties, Justice Aneke, adjourned till July 20, for hearing of motion on interlocutory injunction.
In urging the court to grant the exparte application, lawyers to the Marginal Field Operators, Mr. Nwokedi (SAN) alleged 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
However, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum and Engineer Sarki, a director in the DPR, through their lawyers Dr. Olawoyin (SAN) leading Mr. Ologe, had urged the court to set-aside the restraining order and declare that they were not properly served with the court processes in the suit.
The respondents’ application dated June 11, 2020, for setting aside the originating motion that gave birth to the restrained order, Mr. Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN) leading Mr. Wale Olawoyin (SAN) and Adebayo Ologe, lawyers to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mr. Auwalu Sarki, said their application was premised on none proper service.
Oyeyipo (SAN) had informed the court that their clients, Federal Ministry of Petroleum and Mr. Sarki of DPR, got the court order through DPR’s official email, email@example.com, and that the plaintiffs got automated acknowledgement, while the originating motion was served through email address firstname.lastname@example.org, not been used by the Department.
Oyeyipo (SAN) also told the court that, even if the applicants are to serve the respondents via email, it must be done with an order of the court, but the applicants failed to follow due process as stipulated by the Court’s Rules. Adding that DPR’s visitors’ dated May 29 and 30, 2020, did not reflect the presence of one Joshua Iyanda, and a bailiff of the court, to suggest that the said originating motion was taken to the Department.
Based on the above, the respondents lawyers, urges the court to strike out the originating motion leading to the interlocutory injunction.
Responding, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) leading Mr. Uche Nwokedi (SAN) and other lawyers, while urging the court to dismissed the respondents’ application, told the court that due process was follow in serving both the originating motion and the court’s order on the respondents.
Oyetibo (SAN), had argued that the processes and the order were served on the respondents in line with practice rule. He therefore urges the court to dismissed the respondents applications.