Distraction, Petitions Force Court to Defer Judgment on Arco, AGIP’s Suit

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Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has differed its judgment on a matter filed by an indigenous oil servicing firm, Arco Group Plc against the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC) and other cases listed for judgment because of “distractions and annoying petitions.”

Arco had, in suit number FH/PH/CS/02/2015, dragged Agip, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Conoco Philips Petroleum Nigeria Limited and the Nigeria Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) before the court to determine whether in view of the provision of section three subsections two and (3) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010, having demonstrated ownership of equipment, Nigerian personnel and capacity to execute the task of performing the contract for the maintenance service of rotating equipment at the Nigerian Agip Oil Company gas plants at OB/OB, Ebocha and Kwale, it is entitled, being a Nigerian company, to the exclusive right to be considered and granted such contract including any extension of its duration.

 Presiding judge, Justice Abdullah Liman, on June 14 fixed July 22 for ruling on six motions including jurisdiction, motion on notice and contempt charges over maintenance of status quo as ordered by the court.

But on Friday, Liman said he had hoped to deliver his ruling on six contentions issues on the Arco case as well as judgments on other matters but that he was not able to write his judgment because of distractions and petitions.

“Even though the court is on vacation, I had hoped to deliver judgment on the listed cases today. However, I am unable to write the judgments because of distractions and annoying petitions.
“Particularly, on the Arco Group case, this morning I have received additional authorities. I will look into the cases and deliver judgment on September 23. All the cases for judgment are hereby adjourned to September 23,” he said.

Reacting to the development, Legal Adviser to Arco Group, Dennis Ayisere, while the adjournment was not convenient, the reason proffered by the judge was understandable.

He said: “It is not convenient for Arco Group. I imagine it is not convenient for anyone. But His Lordship gave his reasons, and I think cogent and very sound reasons. As a matter of fact, he has shown dedication in this matter. I think only the third time the matter came before him, the case was argued, which was very unusual.

“So, I think he has been very fair to the parties in this matter and I believe he is one of the judges who do not countenance unnecessary delays. He did not have to fix ruling during vacation; he could have gone on vacation like every other person, but he chose to deliver the judgment during vacation. Unfortunately it turns out that there are some other things that intervened. He didn’t even have to be here today because the Federal High Court is on vacation. It is not convenient but I think it is acceptable.”