Davidson Iriekpen

A Federal High Court in Lagos thursday awarded N100,000 cost against Chevron Nigeria Limited in a $12 billion missing crude oil revenue suit filed by the federal government.

The government filed the suit against Chevron Nigeria Limited, and Chevron Petroleum Nigeria Limited, as first and second defendants respectively.

This suit is one among other suits by the government seeking to recover almost $12 billion for missing crude oil revenue from some international oil companies.
The government is alleging that the oil companies including Chevron, under-declared the volume of crude oil they shipped out of the country between January 2011 and December 2014 without making due remittance to the government.

It accused the oil companies of short-changing it to the tune of N245 million.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun awarded the cost after striking out a preliminary objection by Chevron Petroleum Nigeria Ltd, (second defendant), challenging the jurisdiction of the court on the grounds of service of court processes.

The federal government was represented by Mr Ituah Imhanze and Mr. Chineme Onuoma, while the first and second defendants were represented by Mrs. Miannaya Essien (SAN).
The defence counsel had challenged the court’s jurisdiction, urging it to set aside purported service of an amended writ of summons and amended statement of claim on the second defendant for being incompetent.

Counsel had argued that the second defendant was not served with the amended processes in accordance with the provisions of the law.

Delivering its ruling on the objection, the court held that service of originating processes was fundamental to the jurisdiction of the court, adding that such service must be personal except where personal service is not possible.

She held that by the provisions of Order 6, Rule 3, of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, no such service of court processes shall be necessary where the defendant by his legal practitioner, undertakes in writing to take service.

The court further held that where a party by this means accepts service, he cannot deny same, adding that from the records, it could be recalled that the processes were served.
The court consequently held: “This application is totally and absolutely a waste of time and it is unbelievable.”

After the court’s ruling, federal government’s counse, Imahnze, asked for a cost of N100,000 against the second defendant.

In reaction, Justice Olatoregun awarded a cost of N100,000 against the second defendant, and added that the cost should be paid seven days from the date of award.

Meanwhile, the court expressed displeasure that since 2016 when the case was filed, there had been so many applications, which had stalled its progress.
Going forward, the judge sought to know how many witnesses parties were to call, and in response, both the plaintiff and defendant informed the court that they had two witnesses each to call in the trial.

The court consequently, adjourned the case until May 16 and 17 for trial.
The suit was filed by the federal government through its counsel, Prof Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), in 2016, against some international oil companies (IOCs) to recover lost revenues arising from undeclared and under-declared crude oil shipments from Nigeria to different parts of the world.
The government had also sued Total E&P Nigeria Plc on the same grounds.

It also filed similar suits against Agip Oil Company Ltd, Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd, among others.