NIMASA’ lawyers write AGF
… Claim Agency is not bound by court order in NLNG suit
Lawyers to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mike Igbokwe (SAN) & CO., have written the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, to give a legal position levies payment matter between NIMASA and Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG).
The letter, dated June 25th, 2013, which was signed by the law firm’s Principal Counsel, Mr. Mike Igbokwe, was titled: RE: ALLEGED GROSS ABUSE OF POWER AND VIOLATION OF THE RULE OF LAW BY NIGERIAN MARITIME ADMINISTRATION AND SAFETY AGENCY.
Noting “SUIT NO: FHC/L/CS/847/2013: NIGERIA LNG LTD. V. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION AND ANOR”, the law firm stated: “We act as Solicitors for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (hereinafter referred to as ‘Our Client’ with whose instructions we write this letter to you.
“Our Client’s attention has been drawn to the above-captioned letter addressed to you by Messrs Babalakin & Co. (Legal Practitioners) on behalf of Nigeria NLG Limited (‘NLNG’) on the above case including the drawn up ex parte orders of interim injunction (a copy of which was meant for our client), advertised at pages 36E to 36G and pages 81 to 83 of the THISDAY and GUARDIAN newspapers of 25th June, 2013.
“In the said letter, a wrong attempt was made to inter alia present our Client to you, the Government, National Assembly and the general public as a contemnor which willfully refused to obey a court’s order.
“Our client has informed us and it is obvious from the said drawn up orders advertised by NLNG that our client is not a party to the above suit. It is also clear from the said advertised court order that your office and a company known as Global West Vessel Specialists Nigeria Limited were the only parties to the suit as the 1st and 2nd Defendants. Evident from the said published orders is also that contrary to the false and misleading information conveyed by NLNG in the said advertorial that it commenced the above-named suit against and served the said orders on, you (for and on behalf of the Federal Government and all its agencies including NIMASA) and Global West Ltd, you were not sued as a representative of NIMASA or to defend NIMASA in a representative capacity and NIMASA was not mentioned anywhere in the title, of the suit. Neither you nor the 2nd Defendant in the suit is an Agent or a Servant of our client. Indeed by section 3(2) of the NIMASA Act, 2007, our client is a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal capable of being sued and of suing in its corporate name which gives it a separate and distinct identity and capacity from your office. ”
According to NIMASA’s lawyers: “It is preposterous to say the least, for NLNG to argue as it had done in the advertorial that an action against your office, automatically and without more, amounted to an action against NIMASA in this instance. Regrettably, it misconstrued and misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s decision in AG Federation V A.G. Akwa Ibom cited by it.”
Noting that “the Court only stated at page 153 Paras D-E of the law report that: ‘By virtue of section 150 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, the Attorney General of the Federation who is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation is a competent party to be sued in any suit against the Federal Government’, the law firm posited that “this pronouncement was made in the context of the facts and circumstances of the case before the Court.”
NIMASA’s lawyers informed the AGF thus: “Our client has also instructed us that contrary to the wrong allegations made by NLNG in the said letter, as at 21st and 22nd June, 2013 when our client served detention orders/notices on two vessels owned/chartered by NLNG in its enforcement of Nigerian laws and up till now, it was not served or properly served with the said Court order or any originating process in the aforesaid suit.
“Even though our client concedes that NLNG has the right to sue any party of its choice as it has done in the above case in line with case of A.G. Federation V A.G. Akwa Ibom (2011) & NWLR (Pt. 1248) 31 at 87 Par. B cited by it in which the Supreme Court held that ‘It is clearly the undisputed right of the Plaintiff to choose the person or persons he wished to sue’, yet our client believes that by opting NOT to sue our client in the above suit or serving or properly serving it with any originating processes and orders in the said suit, NLNG cannot expect out client to know or be bound by any Order made in the course of the Court’s proceedings especially when the said order was procured ex parte. Need our client also tell NLNG that any order made against a person who was not a party to the action before the court is to no avail and that such order cannot stand the test of time and is not binding on such a non-party to the action?”
The law firm reiterated that NIMASA is law abiding, respects the law courts and the Nigerian laws and has not done any wrong thing in law.
NIMASA, according its lawyers, is merely performing its statutory powers and functions, as conferred and mandated on it by the National Assembly under the NIMASA Act No 17 of 2007, an Act, the law firm noted is, of the National Assembly.
“Our client will also resist every other attempt to be drawn into press controversy or war by NLNG over the performance of its statutory functions that NLNG having submitted to the court, should follow due process and allow the court to resolve one way or the other. Our client has asked us to study the full legal implications of the tendentious and libelous words and innuendoes used against it in the said advertorials which were widely circulated and reserves its rights to sue on same,” NIMASA’s lawyers stated in concluding the letter to the AGF.
The letter was copied, among others, the The Presidency, in care of the Chief of Staff, Aso Rock Villa, Chief Mike Ogiadhome; Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; House of Representatives Committee on Justice; House of Representatives on Judiciary; and the Minister of Defence.
Also copied were the Minister of Transport; the National Security Adviser (NSA); the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS); the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS); and the President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).