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THISDAY ONLINE (Nigeria): Grants Shell’s Prayer on OMLs

From Funso Muraina in Abuja, 05.24.2007

A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday granted an order stopping three foreign companies that submitted bids for the Oil Mineral Licenses 13 and 16 at the May 11 Bid Round from dealing in any way with the said OMLs.

Justice Anwuri Chikere granted the order to Shell Petroleum Development Company after listening to the company’s counsel, Mr. Joel Akomolafe from the chambers of Afe Babalola & Co.

The court also ordered that all the processes filed in the suit be served on the three foreign companies at their respective addresses overseas.

The three foreign companies are Repsol Nigeria Limited (Spanish), Centrica CCC Oil and Gas (UK) and Sterling Global E&P (Indian).

They were sued along with the Department of Petroleum Resources and the suit is the second SPDC had filed on the same OMLs, the first being handled by Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako.

In the second suit, SPDC is asking the court to award the sum of $500 million as damages against the three companies for unlawful interference with SPDC’s contract in respect of Oil Mineral Licensees 13 and 16.

The plaintiff is asking the court to compel the companies to pay the huge sum within 30 days.

It based the grounds for the demand for the money on the following grounds: That the companies are foreign companies without an address in Lagos.

• That the address given by one of the companies in Victoria Island in Lagos is a residential apartment inhabited by some foreigners.

• That there is no traceable apartment inhabited by the companies within Nigeria that could satisfy whatever judgment that may be obtained against them.

On May 22, Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako had dismissed a preliminary objection filed by the Federal Government to an earlier suit instituted by SPDC, saying that government’s objection on the ground that the case was statute barred was misconceived and was not sustainable.

Justice Binta-Nyako also advised SPDC to commence contempt proceedings against government for offering for bids the OMLs in dispute. She then adjourned the case to 5th June 2007.

Following plans to offer the OMLs for bidding, SPDC went to court to stop government from carrying out the bidding because it would prejudice the dispute between the company and government which was to be referred to arbitration.

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