The Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed preliminary objection the Federal Government lodged to stop hearing of a suit that the son of late military Head of State, Mohammed Abacha, filed to reclaim ownership of Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, which was originally awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Binta Nyako, held that contrary to the Federal Government’s contention, the suit was neither statute-barred nor amounted to an abuse of the judicial process.
Justice Nyako held that the court has the requisite jurisdiction to look into the case.
Aside from the Federal Government, other Defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/201/2017, are; the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Ltd, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Company Ltd, and former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.
The OPL 245 is regarded as one of the biggest oil blocs in Africa.
It was initially awarded to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd in 1998 by the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, in a process, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alleged was against all known government regulations.
The EFCC said its investigations revealed that Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd secured OPL 245 through a fraudulent scheme involving high scale bribery and corruption by top management of the company and some government officials.
Processes the anti-graft agency filed in court further revealed that the oil bloc was later withdrawn from Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd on July 2, 2001, based on the directive of the Presidential Adviser on Petroleum to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, after which it was re-allocated to Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd.
However, following series of litigations, OPL 245 was returned back to Malabu, which EFCC said subsequently went into a fraudulent agreement with Shell and Agip, in which the companies paid a signature bonus of $210million to the Federal Government, while an additional $1.2billion bribe was given to some owners of Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd led by a former Minister of Petroleum under Abacha, Chief Etete, who as at then was already a convict.
The EFCC alleged that it was former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, that helped Shell and Agip to route the bribe money through the Federal Government’s Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London.
However, Adoke had since denied the allegation, insisting that he was innocent. Meanwhile, in the suit he filed in the name of Malabu Oil, Abacha’s son, Mohammed, claimed to be the majority shareholder in the oil firm.
The plaintiff told the court that the oil firm was not part of the purported allocation of OPL 245 to Shell and Agip and for which they allegedly paid $1.3billion to Etete.
He told the court that actual shareholders of the firm were excluded from the process.
The Plaintiff added that the oil company was also not part of the Bloc 245 Resolution Agreement of April 29, 2011, entered between the Federal Government, 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.”
He added that the purported allocation of OPL 245 to Shell and Agip in 2011 was in violation of Malabu oil’s rights as the holder of the “OPL 245 to exclusively explore and prospect for petroleum within the area of its licence, pursuant to Paragraph 5 of the First Schedule to the Petroleum Act, and is therefore null and of no effect.”
Plaintiff is praying the court to among other things, issue an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from carrying out any exploration or prospecting activities in connection with or in relation to the area covered by OPL 245.
It wants the court to make an order compelling the Defendants to restore to it, its right to the exclusive possession of OPL 245.
The Plaintiff also wants a declaration that not being a party to the Bloc 245 Resolution Agreement dated April 29, 2011, any payment purportedly made by the Defendants into any bank account purporting to be the Plaintiff’s bank account and or made to the 7th defendant (Etete) purportedly in the name of the Plaintiff, was not a payment made in pursuance of the said bloc 245 resolution agreement.
The Plaintiff is further seeking a declaration that the allocation of OPL 245 by the 1st and 2nd Defendants (FG and Petroleum Minister) to the 4th and 5th defendants (Shell and Agip), via a letter by the Petroleum Minister, on May 11, 2011, titled “Re: OPL 245 Resolution Agreement/Letter of Award”, while the Plaintiff’s rights and the interests to OPL 245 were subsisting, is in violation of the Plaintiff’s exclusive right under Paragraph 5 of the First Schedule to the Petroleum Act, to explore and prospect for petroleum within the area covered by OPL 245, and is therefore, invalid, wrongful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
Meanwhile, Justice Nyako adjourned the suit till March 9, 2021, for hearing.
NSCDC: Presidency Stops Madu, Directs Gana To Remain CG Despite Tenure Expiration
There is confusion at the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) over Commandant General, Abdullahi Gana stay in office.
Gana’s extended tenure elapsed on Monday, January 18.
In 2019, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Interior, elongated his tenure by six months.
The NSCDC spokesman, Emmanuel Okeh, in a statement on July 19, announced that the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, communicated the approval.
“Now, the Presidency has asked Gana to remain in office pending an official memo on the next line of action”, PRNigeria reports.
Gana was said to have handed over last Monday, to the Deputy Commandant General, Hilary Kelechi Madu, as acting Commandant General.
But the Presidency, it was gathered, insists it did not give a handover directive, and as such, the status quo be maintained.
The claim is that Gana still has two years in service.
If so, stakeholders wonder why was he granted a six-month extension that elapsed on Monday.
They argue that the government could have in 2019 approved his incumbency until “actual” retirement date.
Madu is currently the most senior officer at NSCDC after Gana.
The DCG in charge of Operations now has to wait longer as efforts are being made to further extend his boss’s stay in office.
It was gathered that powerful forces are lobbying the Presidency and top officials for this to happen.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Aregbesola had been warned not to grant additional tenure extension to heads of paramilitary agencies.
Aside Gana, others are Controller-General, Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Jaafaru Ahmed; and Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede.
A retired Immigration Officer, Daniel Makolo, had stated that Aregbesola acted beyond his constitutional authority ab initio.
Aregbesola chairs the Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board (CDCFIB).
Makolo said he had no legal power “to recommend or extend the statutory tenure of any public servant, no matter and however industrious such an officer may be.”
The human rights lawyer pointed out that the Public Service Commission is the body empowered with specific provisions for entry and exit.
“The practice of arbitrary, illegal elongation of the statutory tenure of public office occupants sets a dangerous precedent for bureaucracy and national security”, he warned.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia Floors NJC In Court
The Federal High Court, Abuja has dismissed an objection raised by the National Judicial Council (NJC) against the hearing of the case instituted by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia challenging her dismissal.
Ruling on the matter, yesterday, Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed all the objections on the grounds that they were misplaced and that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s claim was misconstrued.
The NJC had, in 2018, dismissed Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court from the service of the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) on grounds of alleged gross judicial misconduct.
Not satisfied with the NJC’s action, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, challenging the process adopted by the fact-finding committee of the NJC that recommended her dismissal.
The judge asked the court to declare the report of the committee illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
The dismissed judge maintained that her fundamental right to fair hearing was breeched in the way and manner she was dismissed from the court bench.
The NJC and other defendants in the matter, however, filed separate preliminary objections against the hearing of the suit on the grounds that the Federal High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain such a matter.
The council held that, being a labour-related matter involving an employee, the judge ought to have gone to the National Industrial Court to ventilate her grievances.
The defendants, the Attorney-General of the Federation, President Muhammadu Buhari, Justice Olufemi Akinta, Justice Ishaq Bello and Justice Julieth Kentu, denied the claim of denial of fair hearing alleged by the judge.
They also contended that the case was statute-barred having not been instituted within three months as required by the Public Officers Protection Act.
In her counter-affidavit, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, prayed the court to dismiss the objection to her suit on the grounds that she was challenging the constitutionality of her dismissal.
In his ruling, Justice Ekwo dismissed all the objections on the grounds that they were misplaced and that the claim of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was misconstrued.
The Judge held that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia raised constitutional issues bordering on denial of fair hearing in the manner she was dismissed.
He further held that the case of the dismissed judge did not fall under the provision of the Public Officers Protection Act as claimed by the NJC and as such, was not statute-barred.
The judge held that the plaintiff’s claim, being a constitutional matter, could only be heard by a Federal High Court and not the National Industrial Court as canvassed by the NJC.
The judge adjourned the matter until April 5, 6 and 7, for hearing of the substantive matter.
10m Jobs In Limbo In Poultry Industry, PAN Alerts
The leadership of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) has lamented that no fewer than 10million jobs in the poultry value chain of the Nigerian economy would be lost, if pragmatic steps are not taken to address the challenges of scarcity of chickens and eggs facing the industry.
PAN also drew attention to the fact that the poultry industry in Nigeria may collapse soon, which will culminate into gross scarcity of eggs and chickens, if the Federal Government, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and governors failed to take appropriate steps to address the looming danger.
The alarm was raised, yesterday, during a press conference addressed by leadership of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) from six states in the South-West – Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti states as well as Kwara State in the North-Central.
The speakers, who converged on the press centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan, included the association’s General Secretary, South-West, Dr. Olalekan Odunsi; chairmen of the association, Godwin Egbebe (Lagos); Bisi Babalola (Ekiti); Yemi Olukiran (Osun); Gbemisoye Agboola (Oyo); Rev Gideon Oluleye (Ondo) represented by Mr. Damian Ogunbo, secretary; Idowu Asenuga (Ogun), represented by Mrs. Blessing Alawode; and Ojo Akinwunmi (Kwara).
The association identified scarcity of maize and soybeans, being used to produce poultry feeds, as the factors that would usher in the menace, adding that 10million jobs in the poultry value chain of the Nigerian economy would be lost if pragmatic steps are not taken to address the challenges.
The association’s General Secretary, South-West, Dr. Olalekan Odunsi, said: “The poultry industry in the South-West Geopolitical Zone is over six decades, growing consistently and steadily to a population of 30million, a number representing more than 60 per cent of the National Poultry Population (NPP).
“In investment, this sector is worth over N2trillion. In job creation, it employs over 10million people directly and indirectly, using its wide value chain from farm to field. It is worthy of note that this sector is almost 100 per cent private driven.
“However, if urgent attention is not given to the lingering crisis of grains, especially maize and soya, we fear that an industry with such an enviable statistics may suffer a total collapse.”
He stated that about July, 2020, “the price of maize due to inadequate supply against the huge demand by poultry sector and other users, rose from a price of N105,000 – N165,000. In the midst of this hike in price, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced a ban on Forex for the importation of maize, which further drove the price to as high as N185,000/TON.”
The poultry farmers’ in the seven states, however, appealed to the Federal Government to approve urgent importation of animal feed grade of maize to sustain the over 50million layers, 100million broilers, one million breeders, and other classes of poultry, until the next harvest season.
“In the interim, government should enforce a ban on export of soya, both seed and the processed meal. The governors in the South-West should put as much efforts to the cultivation of maize as they have done with rice.”
Odunsi noted that “As at today, maize is N210,000/MT in most states of the South-West, Soya Meal N240,000/MT. Due to the fact that these two items form about 75 -78 per cent of an average poultry ration, the price of poultry feed has continuously been on the increase from about N2,750 -N3,000 in April 2020 to N4,850-N5,300, today.
“In December, 2020, most farmers, from small to large, were unable to sell their broilers because the cost of production was even higher than what an average Nigerian can afford. Presently, egg is going out of the reach of an average family with ideal price at N1,300 per crate but the farm gate price is still at N1000-N1,100, a price that will force farmers to close down.”
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