Court: ExxonMobil Can Be Sued in Nigeria

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By Alex Enumah

Justice O. A. Obaseki-Osaghae of the National Industrial Court in Lagos has held that ExxonMobil Corporation can be sued in Nigeria.

Ruling in the application filed to stop joining of Exxon Mobil Corporation in a suit challenging alleged unlawful retirement of Mr. Paul Arinze from Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae held that the corporation is a necessary party to the suit and must be properly joined by the claimant.

Arinze, a staff of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) had challenged his alleged unlawful retirement from the oil company.

In a suit he filed, he joined MPN and Exxon Mobil Corporation as the first and second defendants respectively.

Exxon Mobil Corporation is an American oil giant and parent company of MPN.

But Exxon Mobil sought an order of the court order to strike out the corporation’s name from the suit.

It argued that the reliefs sought by the claimant against Exxon Mobil could not be granted since the company was neither incorporated in Nigeria nor carried out its business in the country.

The claimant’s lawyer, Mr. Emeka Ozoani (SAN), objected insisting that ExxonMobil was not a stranger to the employment of his client.

The senior lawyer argued that the claimant could sue it for any liability arising from any default or wrong done to him in the course of his employment.

He submitted that the claimant was holding the first and second defendant liable for his alleged unlawful retirement.

According to him, it is misleading for Exxon Mobil to state that the claimant’s reliefs were against MPN only.

He added that the second defendant’s presence was required for the just determination of the issues as presented in the suit.

Ozoani also argued that MPN was a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corporation

In an 11-page ruling, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae dismissed an application by the corporation’s counsel.

He held: “It is clear from the claims and the pleadings that the case against the second defendant falls within the jurisdiction of this court, and there is no condition precedent preventing the claimant access to the court in respect of his alleged forceful termination of employment.

“I hold that the second defendant is a necessary party and has been properly joined; this court is not deprived of jurisdiction to hear and determine the complaint against the second defendant,” the judge ruled.

He ordered that the case should proceed to substantive hearing, and awarded a cost of N30,000 in favour of the claimant.

The case was adjourned till November 9 for hearing.

Reacting to the ruling, Ozoani lauded a court, saying it erased doubts that the multinational company could be sued in Nigeria.

He said that the court decision would help to ensure that employees would not suffer injustice on technical grounds.