The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Hely Creek and Abigborodo fields covered by the Oil Mining Lease 49 to be restored to Transnational Energy Limited.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in his judgment restoring the oil fields to the TEL, awarded $20m damages against the Federal Government institutions joined as defendants in the case.
The Joint Venture partners, Chevron and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, had with the consent of the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Minister of Petroleum Resources, farmed out the oil fields to TEL.
The farm-out which was concluded in 2017 was for the purpose of providing feedstock to a gas-to-power project developed by Transnational Energy Limited and partners.
The DPR had in a letter dated February 20, 2017, conveying the consent of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, approved the farm-out and its terms.
The approval letter equally directed the company to pay a prescribed premium to the Federal Government, for the farm-out to become effective.
TEL was said to have had paid the prescribed fee.
But in January 2019, the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, in a memo, revoked the ministerial consent purportedly on the instruction of the President Muhammadu Buhari.
The DPR, in compliance with the purported revocation and without any notice to TEL put the two fields in the 2020 marginal fields basket, despite that the fields were not part of the original 57 fields approved for the bid round.
Dissatisfied, TEL and its sister company, Bresson A.S. Nigeria Limited, had through their lawyer, Dr. Sijuwade Kayode, filed the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/1067/2020, at the Federal High Court Abuja, to challenge the purported revocation.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, DPR, National Petroleum Investment Management Services, and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Backed by 16 exhibits, the plaintiff contended that the fields were legally farmed-out to TEL and having paid the prescribed premium to the Federal Government, the farm-out was completed and that Kyari’s later was null and void.
Delivering judgement, Justice Taiwo affirmed jurisdiction over the matter which he said was about contract.
Justice Taiwo held that neither the then Chief of Staff to the President nor NAPTIMS and DPR has the power to issue any letter reversing the farming out agreement as they purported to have done.
“Governments and their officials must not, without legal reasons, terminate contracts at will and without recourse to their conscience, whereas, in this case, as held above, that the plaintiffs have put in substantial efforts and expended money in the project.
“It is even bad that the defendants have not offered to refund the money paid by the first plaintiff in this matter. The purported revocation, if I may use the word, leaves one to think that there are facts suppressed by the defendants.”
The judge affirmed the earlier consent already granted TEL in relation to the oil fields, validated the payment made by the company, and ordered the defendants to take all necessary steps to allow the plaintiffs unhindered access and possession of the fields.
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