OIL, GAS CARGOES SUIT: Federal High Court, Lagos, adjourns hearing for May 12 … As President, AGF are not represented by counsel

The suit LADOL Vs. INTELS and five others came up Jan. 21 at the Fedreal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos State, South-West Nigeria before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola but was adjourned to May 12, 2016, for hearing.

While counsel appeared for LADOL (Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base), INTELS (Intels Nigeria Limited), and AMS (Associated Maritime Services Limited), respectively, the first and fourth defendants, respectively,  -  the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation  -  were not represented by counsel.
 LADOL’s  counsel informed the court that he has complied with the order of the court made on November 6, 2015, to the effect  that he should file and serve on all the parties the originating summons reflecting the names of INTELS and AMS in the suit.
 He, however, said that was done out of time and then craved the indulgence of the court to move his application to regularise the irregular filing and service.
 The court granted the application.
 But when he asked the court for time to enable him file and serve his written address to the originating summons, the court rebuked him, noting that he should have filed and served the written address along with the originating summons.
 The court, therefore, granted him seven days to file and serve afresh the originating summons and the written address on all the parties.
 Adjourning the suit to May 12, 2016, for hearing, the court ordered that hearing notices be issued to the first and fourth defendants – the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation, respectively.
It would be recalled that INTELS had scaled a major legal hurdle at the previous sitting of the court.
In adjourning the matter to January 21, 2016, on November 6, 2015,
Justice John Isoho had granted INTELS’ application to be joined in a suit filed by Ladol Integrated Logistics Free Zone Enterprise and MCI FZE Yard Development Limited.
 The suit was filed against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the National Assembly, the Federal Ministry of Transport, and the Attorney-General of the Federation restraining the passage and assent of the Bill for an Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Free Zone.
The suit also sought for an interim injunction restraining the defendants from enforcing the Presidential Directive that all oil and gas cargoes should be handled in Onne, Warri and Calabar ports which were designated to handle such cargoes since 2006.
 In his ruling, Justice Isoho said that the prayers of INTELS were granted on grounds that the issues for determination touched directly on the business and and financial interests of INTELS.
 AMS had also filed a separate application to be joined in the same suit and its prayer was granted by Justice Isoho.
It will be recalled that LADOL and MCI filed originating summons and vide a motion ex-parte brought before Justice Isoho and obtained an order of interim injunction on May 12, 2015.
 The order restrained the passage of the Bill for an Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Free Zone, as well as restrained the defendants from enforcing a Presidential Directive that all oil and gas cargoes be handled at Onne, Warri and Calabar ports.
 It will be recalled that Nigeria’s then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, in April 2015, issued a directive that all oil and gas cargoes should be handled at designated terminals, just as the National Assembly had forwarded to the President for assent a Bill to Amend the Oil and Gas Free Zone Act.
 The two efforts irked some stakeholders in the maritime industry who perceived the moves as designed to snuff out their businesses and to create an empire for a few stakeholders.
Consequent to that Presidential Directive, certain maritime industry stakeholders have vehemently been kicking against the regulation, claiming that it had granted monopoly to INTELS, which had secured concessions to operate three terminals that handle oil and gas cargoes at the ports in Warri, Delta State; Onne, Rivers State; and Calabar, Cross River State, respectively, since 2006.
The three ports are located in Nigeria’s South-South geopolitical zone.
 Notably, in spite of the explanations by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other government agencies on why the concessions were made, and the issue of the inherent high risk of allowing private jetty operators to handle dangerous cargoes such as oil and gas, the strident debate to have a share in the lucrative business rages in various forms, including legal tussles and media wars.

However, industry analysts have persistently counselled that prime consideration should be given to the healthy implications of the Presidential Directive to the economy of the nation, particularly the matter of the revenue accruing to government.