Kaztec Engineering Asks Appeal Court to Set Aside Judgment on OMLs 123, 124, 126, 137 Dispute

Wale Igbintade

An indigenous oil and gas engineering firm, Kaztec Engineering Limited, has asked the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment of Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha of Federal High Court Abuja, which struck out its suit filed against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and five others regarding Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 123, 124, 126 and 137.

Justice Maha had in her judgment delivered on December 15, 2023, had struck out the suit with number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1291/2020, filed by Kaztec Engineering Limited against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources; the Attorney General of the Federation; Mars Exploration and Production Company Ltd; the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).

Dissatisfied with the judgement, Kaztec Engineering Limited in its Notice of Appeal filed by its team of lawyers, led by Jeph C. Njikonye, prayed the appellate court to allow the appeal and set aside the whole decision striking out the appellant’s suit/claims.

The appellant also urged the court to invoke Sections 15 and 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and assume jurisdiction to determine its 2nd Amended Originating Summons; and resolve issues 5 endorsed on the appellant’s Amended Originating Summons filed on March 22, 2023 in its favour.

The appellant argued that the trial court erred in law when it struck out its suit on the grounds of non-joinder of Salvic Petroleum Resources Ltd, stating that the law was trite that non-joinder of a party does not defeat the cause of action.

Njikonye, argued that the joint award of the disputed OMLs to the appellant and Salvic Petroleum Resources Ltd. was clearly delineated to be on equity participation of Kaztec

He urged the court to hold that the appellant (Kaztec) had a distinct cause of action against the respondents to commence its suit and to seek the reliefs sought. Besides, Njikonye argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that non production of document evidencing payment of signature bonus rendered the court incompetent to entertain the suit.

He stated that the lower court had in its rulings affirmed the appellant’s reasonable cause of action against the respondents, submitting that the appellant never sought any reliefs against Salvic Petroleum Resources Limited being not a necessary party for the determination of the appellant’s suit.

He urged the court to hold that, “The appellant had locus standi to commence and maintain the action in its personal capacity, and that the non-joinder of Salvic Petroleum Resources Ltd. as a party could not have defeated the Appellant’s cause of action.”

He submitted that the matter submitted to the lower court was for the interpretation of Section 2(1)(B); 12(1); Paragraph 35 Schedule 1 of the Petroleum Act; Letters of Award of Oil Mining Lease (OMLS) 123, 124, 126 and 137 dated 30th March, 2021, 7 April 2021 and 11th June, 2071 and a determination that the review of the award of the OMLs to the appellant in the circumstances of the case was wrongful.

He stated that the issue of payment of signature bonus would not arise until the award to the appellant was restored.

The appellant argued that the competence and jurisdiction of the court to determine matters in dispute between persons, government or authority was regulated by the constitution and relevant statutes.

He submitted that there was nothing in the provisions of the Petroleum Act, any other law or Section 251 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) that made payment of signature bonus a condition precedent for the appellant to commence the suit in the circumstances of the action.

The lower court had issued an interim order directing the parties to the suit (including the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the NUPRC) to maintain the status quo in relation to the said OMLs.

However, in the judgment of the court delivered last Friday, the court held that the Originating Summons was incompetent, having failed to join a necessary party (Salvic Petroleum) to the suit. Consequently, the suit was struck out.

In effect, the appeal entered by Kaztec Engineering Ltd shall act as stay of further action on the subject matter until the appeal would be finally determined.

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