Agbami Oil Field Dispute: Court Adjourns Statoil’s Suit Challenging Arbitral Award


Davidson Iriekpen

Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned to June 6, 2016, the suit filed by a Norwegian company, Statoil Nigeria Limited, to challenge the final award in an arbitration proceedings against it following a disagreement on the Agbami oil field.

The respondents in the suit are Texaco Nigeria Outer Shelve Limited, Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited, Famfa Limited and Peroleo Brasileiro Nigeria Limited.

When the matter came up last Friday, counsel to Peroleo Brasileiro, A. Tunde-Olowu, withdrew his first set of initial processes filed in response to the suit and same were struck out by the court.
He then moved his application for extension of time with respect to his second set of processes filed in response to the suit which was granted by the court.

Counsel to Famfa, Oseni Enemosah, on his part, applied for an adjournment to enable him file his own processes.
The case started when the Norwegian firm initiated arbitration proceedings against the four respondents on October 18, 2013.

Hearing commenced on June 22, 2015 and was concluded on June 24, 2015. The arbitral tribunal then delivered its final award on November 2015 and dismissed the applicant’s claim in its entirety.
The tribunal upheld the findings of the expert in the equity re-determination exercise which formed the grounds upon which the applicant brought the arbitration.

But not satisfied with the judgment of the arbitral tribunal, Statoil filed a suit at the Federal High Court, asking the court to set aside the award.

However, in their objections filed on their behalf by their counsel, Mr. Uche Nwokedi (SAN), Star Deep Water Petroleum and Texaco Nigeria Outer Shelve, urged the court to dismiss the suit.

Nwokedi argued that the law and practice of arbitration in Nigeria is far too developed and established for the applicant to engage the time of the court in a contrived and frivolous application.

He argued that it would amount to travesty of justice for any serious consideration to be given to the applicant and its application, especially where all the other courts and tribunals before whom any aspect of the matter had been raised had consistently defined the true position.

The learned senior advocate who cited a plethora of authorities to back his argument, said the application by the applicant was cynical, contrived and calculated to frustrate the effect of a duly issued final award in a well contested arbitration brought at its instance where all the parties who were represented by their team of lawyers and proceedings were conducted on mutually agreed terms.

He contended that the suit should be seen for what it is – a desperate attempt to frustrate the successful outcome of the arbitration award.

He noted that since the applicant did not premise its application on any ground recognised by law for setting aside an arbitral award, the entire suit should be dismissed.