â€¢ Capital Oil: NNPC owes us N16bn
â€¢Accuses DSS of attempt to criminalise commercial dispute
Ejiofor Alike and Anayo Okolie
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos yon Tuesday ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to unfailingly produce the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Ifeanyi Ubah, before him nextÂ Friday, May 12, 2017.
He said the order is for the DSS to show cause why Ubah should not be unconditionally granted freedom.
The judge gave the order after entertaining an ex parte application from Ubah on what he described as an unlawful detention by the DSS.
Specifically, Ubah, through his counsel, Ifeoma Esom,Â informed Justice Idris that he had been in detention since May 5, 2017.
The lawyer then prayed the judge to direct the DSS to release Ubah so as to prevent the security agency from coercing him to accede to â€œwhatever conditions they impose on him in exchange for his freedom.â€
The DSS had maintained that the business mogul is being detained over his alleged involvement in actions that are clearly unfriendly to national security.
Spokesperson of the DSS, Tony Opuiyo, in Abuja had argued that Ubah allegedly stole, diverted and illegally sold petroleum products stored in his tank farm by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The DSS insisted that the cost of the oil is N11billion.
Opuiyo added that such acts were impacting negatively on the national economy.
The DSS stated: â€œIn line with the statutory mandate of the DSS to investigate economic crimes of national security dimension, the service, on May 5,Â 2017, arrested Ubah,
â€œThe arrest was sequel to Ubahâ€™s engagement in acts of economic sabotage which include stealing, diversion and illegal sale of petroleum products stored in his tank farm by the NNPC.
â€œSo far, it has been established that the products stolen amounted to over N11billion.
â€œThere is no doubt that Ubahâ€™s acts have the capacity to negatively impact on national economy.â€
Meanwhile, Capital Oil and Gas Limited has alleged that the NNPC is indebted to it to the tune of over N16 billion and accused the DSS of attempt to criminalise a commercial dispute between the company and the corporation.
According to a statement issued yesterday, the company described the incarceration of its Chairman, Ubah, by DSS as â€œunlawful, a disregard for the rule of law and a breach of Ubahâ€™s fundamental right to liberty, freedom of movement and association.â€
The company also described the allegation of economic sabotage levelled against Ubah by the DSS as false, insisting that NNPC is indebted to it to the tune of over N16 billion.
Â Capital Oil listed the debts to include: $5,540,000 (N2.2billion) -Â berthing fees for NNPC vessels that called at the companyâ€™s Jetty; $2,952,555 (N1billion) -invoice for chartered vessels to carryout Ship-to-Ship (STS) operations Lagos offshore to ferry petrol to storage at the request of NNPC since 2015; N1.170billion Â for throughput services from March to October 2016 and N3.146billion: payment made to NNPC for 26,820 million litres of petrol vide Pro-forma Invoice No. 53598, which is yet to be delivered to Capital Oil.
Other debts include: N2.0billion- payment to NNPC in April to facilitate the release of the Managing Director and engender reconciliation, which NNPC reneged on and N6.266billion- N0.80k and N0.40 Jetty Throughput charge on over seven billion litres dispensed for NNPC by Capital Oil.
According to the statement by the company, an invitation was extended to Ubah on March 24, 2017, which he honoured as a law-abiding citizen, only to be detained in DSS offices in Abuja for almost a month.
â€œDuring that period a Fundamental Rights Enforcement Application was brought on behalf of Ubah at the Federal High Court Lagos as Suit No. FHC/L/C/487/2017.Â Although an order was made for his production in court in that action, rather than obey the order, DSS officers, using a combination of coercion and cajoling, constrained him to discontinue that action upon an understanding that he would be immediately released. He was not released until over two weeks after he had complied and completely discontinued that action,â€ the company explained.
The company added that upon Ubahâ€™s release on April 13, 2017, it was discovered that during his incarceration, he had been coerced into executing various documents committing the company to make certain payments and pledge some assets to NNPC Retail Limited.
According to the company, Ubah was also made to execute a document in favour of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
â€œAs soon as his doctors permitted access to him, an action was brought at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court seeking, inter alia, an order to restrain DSS and others from further inviting, arresting or threatening to arrest or detain him in regard to the NNPC/NNPC Retail Limited matters.The processes originating the new action filed as Suit No. FHC/L/CS/644/2017, were served on the DSS on the 28th of April 2017,â€ the company said.
Capital Oil also disclosed that Ubahâ€™s lawyers wrote to the DSS pointing out that â€œany preemption of the judicial intervention during the pendency of the new action is totally irregular, a disregard of the rule of law, the constitutional guarantees of separation of powers and breach of the doctrine of Lis Pendens.
â€œRather than respect its constitutional and statutory limits the DSS has brazenly abducted Ubah and commenced a media blitz to justify their illegality.â€
â€œOn economic sabotage, it is unimaginable that a company which has stood by NNPC and by extension the country at very critical petroleum supply crises can now be accused of engaging in activities to undermine the effective distribution of petroleum products across the country having thwarted a nationwide industrial action called by oil marketers during the epic inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari,â€ Capital Oil explained.