The Supreme Court has fixed judgment for January 29 in the suit involving oil giant Chevron Nigeria, Britania-U Nigeria Ltd and Seplat Petroleum Development Company on the disputed sale of three oil blocks – Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 52, 53 and 55.
The dispute followed Chevron’s alleged refusal to transfer ownership of the oil blocks to Britannia-U, which claimed it out-bid other firms.
The court chose the date for judgment after parties adopted their final written arguments last week.
Counsel to the appellant (Britania-U) Rickey Tarfa (SAN), while adopting his client’s brief, noted that the appeal was in respect of the June 20, 2014 judgment of the Court of Appeal, which vacated the order of the Federal High Court in Abuja that parties should maintain the status quo regarding issues relating to the oil blocks.
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on December 13, 2013, issued an interim injunction restraining Chevron from assigning OMLs 52, 53 and 55 to any of the unsuccessful bidding companies, including Seplat, in the bid won by Britannia-U in September, 2013.
Tarfa urged the court to grant the motion for mandatory restorative order to revert parties to status quo before the appeal was lodged.
He urged the court to uphold Britannia-U’s appeal, set aside the decision of the Appeal Court and dismiss the preliminary objections of Chevron and other respondents.
Counsel to Seplat Damian Dodo (SAN) urged the court to dismiss the appeal, which he said was interlocutory.
Dodo argued that the core issue raised in the Brittania-U appeal was whether or not the lower court was right to set aside the ex-parte order, which extended the interim injunction granted in favour of the appellant indefinitely when the substantive case was still pending.
Uche Nwokedi (SAN), who represented Chevron and BNP Paribas Securities Corp (second and fourth respondents), adopted his respondent’s reply to the brief with his notice of preliminary objection to the appeal, which he said, was filed the same day with the reply to the brief.
Counsel to Chevron USA Inc and Hermant Patel (third and fifth respondents) A.V. Etuwewe, told the court that his clients filed their reply on March 3, but deemed properly filed on March 23.
Tarfa said the respondents’ game plan was to forestall the case so that they could use technicality to knock it off.
He told the court that the respondents failed to realise that in the case, the 14 days did not apply because the statutes “say if you sue foreigners outside jurisdiction, they must be given 30 days before they can be compelled to appear before the court.”
Tarfa added: “When the case resumed at the trial court, after the grant of ex-parte injunction, the respondents brought an objection that the court has no jurisdiction.
“So we argued that in view of the objection that the court has no jurisdiction, what is the position then because the res must be preserved while the issue of jurisdiction is yet to be determined.
“This was the reason the court made the preservative order over the res while fixing the preliminary objection for hearing on the first opportunity.”
He urged the court not to allow respondents take undue advantage of the delay they engineered.
Britannia-U is challenging the award of OMLs 52, 53 and 55 by Chevron Nigeria Ltd to Seplat Petroleum Development Company Ltd.
Joined as defendants also are Chevron USA Inc, BNP Parbas Securities Corp, Hermant Petel and Seplat Petroleum Development Company Ltd.
Britannia-U Nigeria Ltd sought a declaration that its final binding offer of $1,015,000,000 for acquisition of 40 per cent interest of Chevron Nigeria in oil mining leases 52, 53 and 56 was accepted by the first defendant.
In its statement of claim, Britannia-U said the second defendant (Chevron USA) requested it to provide “firm board commitment letter” by its (plaintiff’s) bankers for the balance of $765million, which it complied with.
The plaintiff added that its bankers paid the money to the second defendant (Chevron Corp) at its Houston office on November 15, 2013, arguing that with the payment, the parties had entered into a binding contract for the acquisition of OMLs 52, 53 and 55 by the plaintiff.
Britannia-U urged the court to hold that its revised bid of $1,015, 000, 000 for acquisition of the 40 per cent interest of Chevron Nigeria Ltd in Oil Mining Leases 52, 53 and 56 is binding and subsisting.
The plaintiff also urged the court to hold that the Irrevocable Standby Letter of Credit for $250 million representing 15 per cent of the company’s initial bid price of $1.667 billion, opened in favour of the first/second defendants on September 30, 2013, remained in force.
The plaintiff maintained that by the irrevocable Letter of Credit, which formed part of the conditions laid down by first/second defendants and for a binding bid, the SBLC was still being held by the first/second defendants Chevron Nigeria/(Chevron Corporation) to date.
Britannia-U sought an order declaring that the first to fourth defendants had no right to proceed to invite bids, offer or accept, negotiate, purport or so represent or engage in any transaction or contract to transfer, sell, farm out or otherwise deal in, dispose of charge encumber, or divest the 40 per cent interest of Chevron Nigeria Ltd in Oil Mining Leases 52, 53 and 55 in Nigeria in favour of any other person or entity in disregard of the agreement between the plaintiff and the first defendant.