$12b recovery suit: Court strikes out Chevron’s preliminary objection

Federal High Court, Lagos

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Thursday awarded a N100,000 cost against Chevron Petroleum Nigeria Ltd in a $12 billion debt recovery suit by the Federal Government over oil shipment.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun awarded the cost after striking out the company’s preliminary objection by the second defendant, Chevron Petroleum Nigeria Ltd, challenging the court’s jurisdiction over service of court processes.

According to the judge, the cost should be paid within seven days of the award.

The Federal Government filed the suit against Chevron Nigeria Ltd, and Chevron Petroleum Nigeria Ltd, as first and second defendants respectively.

This suit is one among several suits seeking to recover almost $12 billion in missing crude oil revenue from some international oil companies.

The Federal Government was represented by Ituah Imhanze and Chineme Onuoma, while the first and second defendants were represented by Miannaya Essen, a senior advocate of Nigeria.

The defence counsel had challenged the court’s jurisdiction, urging it to set aside purported service of an amended writ of summons and amended statement of claim on the second defendant, for being incompetent.

The counsel had argued that the second defendant was not served with the amended processes in accordance with the provisions of the law.

Delivering its ruling on the objection, Justice Olatoregun held that service of originating processes was fundamental to the jurisdiction of the court, adding that such service must be personal except where personal service is not possible.

She held that by the provisions of order 6 rule 3, of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, no such service of court processes shall be neccessary, where the defendant by his legal practitioner, undertakes in writing to take service.

The court further held that where a party by this means, accepts service, he cannot deny same, adding that from records, it could be recalled that the processes were served.

The court consequently held: “This application is totally and absolutely a waste of time and it is unbelievable”

After the court’s ruling, Imahnze asked for a cost of N100,000 against the second defendant which the judge granted.

The Justice Olatoregun expressed displeasure at the delays experienced in the suit since 2016 when the case was brought to court, saying there had been so many applications which had stalled progress of the suit.

Going forward, the judge sought to know how many witnesses parties were to call, and in response, both the plaintiff and defendant informed the court that they had two witnesses each to call in the trial.

The court consequently, adjourned the case until May 16 and 17 for trial.

The suit was filed by the Federal Government through its counsel, Fabian Ajogwu, (SAN) in 2016, against some International Oil Companies (IOCs) to recover lost revenues arising from undeclared and under-declared crude oil shipments from Nigeria to different parts of the world.

The government had also sued Total E&P Nig. Plc, alleging that the oil company under-declared the volume of crude oil it shipped out of the country between January 2011 and December 2014.

The oil companies were accused of short-changing the country to the tune of $245 million, by allegedly shipping several barrels of crude oil out of Nigeria, without making due remittance to the government.