Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, has ordered the Department of State Security (DSS) to produce on Friday this week, Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, and show why the controversial businessman should not be released unconditionally.
The judge was ruling in the ex-parte application filed by Ifeoma Esom, counsel to Ubah’s, to compel his release from the custody of DSS where he has been since May 6.
In an affidavit, George Oranuba, the Secretary of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, affirmed that DSS acted in disregard of the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and the sanctity of the judicial process.
He claimed that Ubah’s arrest was in respect of the allegations made by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which are already encumbered by a lawsuit.
“Notwithstanding the pendency of this suit and the service of the originating process as aforesaid the 3rd (EFCC) and 4th (DG, DSS) respondents again invited the 1st applicant to report to their offices in respect of the same allegations made by the 7th (NNPC) to 9th (AMCON) respondents which is the subject matter of the instant suit” the affidavit said.
Esom argued that unless the court orders the applicant to be produced in court within 48hrs, EFCC and DSS would continue to keep him in their custody where they may “coerce him into acceding to whatever conditions they impose on him in exchange for his freedom”.
Meanwhile, the court document filed by the Ubah’s lawyers acknowledged that Ubah was detained from March 24 to April 14, 2017, a report that Uba had earlier denied, claiming it was mere fabrication.
Following Ubah’s arrest, DSS had said he was arrested over “economic sabotage” and diversion of petroleum products of about N11 billion.
It was reported that petroleum products belonging to NNPC Retail stored at the Capital Oil farm in Lagos under a throughput agreement went missing.
But the company secretary said the throughput agreement allows “conversion and diversion of IT products by “operators” so long as the operator is prepared to re-deliver the products within 7 days of demand by the products owner or to pay a penalty for non-re-delivery”.
He further explained that failure to re-deliver is a “mere” breach of contract, remediable by the payment of penalty to the owner, adding that there can be no issue of crime in conversion or diversion of product, and does not call for the intervention of any law enforcement agency.
“The Throughput agreement expressly states that any penalty due for non-re-delivery is to be treated as a debt and I verily believe that law enforcement agencies are not allowed to operate as debt collectors,” Capital Oil Secretary and Legal adviser, Oranuba deposed.
Oranuba also stated that the NNPC is indebted to Capitol Oil and Gas Limited in “excess of 13 Billion Naira”, noting that the company did not call law enforcement agencies to collect the debt, despite the length of time NNPC has held on to the money.