NLNG Opts to Settle Out-of-Court with Nimasa, Others

The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) has opted to settle out of court its legal dispute with Mohamed Adoke (SAN) the attorney-general of the federation, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Nimasa) and others.

NLNG made the intention known to Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court at the resume hearing of the case in which,  NLNG filed a contempt charge against Adoke and other defendants for disobeying a court order made by Justice Idris on June 18, restraining the defendants  from charging three per cent of gross freight earnings, tax, charges or dues among others on all NLNG’s international-bound and out bound cargo, owned by it or its contractors or subsidiaries, pending the determination of the motion for interlocutory injunction.

The judge made the order against Adoke, Global West Vessel Specialists Nigeria Limited and Mr. Romeo Itima, its managing director.

Adoke had filed a Motion on Notice dated June 27, asking the court to vacate or discharge the ex-parte order, which NLNG alleged that the defendants violated. He sought to discharge the order on the ground that it was made against Nimasa, who is not joined as a party to the suit.

In informing the court the intention of his client to settle out of court with the defendants, Wole Akoni (SAN), NLNG’s counsel said parties have discussed terms of settlement, but that NLNG’s board of directors and shareholders were yet to authorise the terms.

When the case for contempt proceedings and hearing of Adoke’s application was called up for hearing, it could not immediately go on, as Akoni told the court that he needed some time to confirm further details of the agreement with his clients. The matter was stood down but at the resumption of the case, the plaintiff’s counsel expressed regret at being unable to conclude the discussions.

“We have not been able to finally come to terms on the order to be proposed to be put before your Lordship.

“Given a bit more time, this issue will be resolved,” he pleaded with the court.

Akoni, thereto applied for a short adjournment to enable him conclude with his clients.

However, Dr. Fabian Ajogwu(SAN) Adoke’s counsel did not oppose the application for an adjournment.

He said: “We are happy to grant him a one-day indulgence.”

Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), Global West’s counsel also aligned with Ajogwu as he was not also opposed to the application.

“We will reluctantly concede to the adjournment,” he said.

Mr. Mike Igbokwe (SAN), Nimasa’s counsel pointed out to the court that the disagreement, over which an adjournment was sought was not among the parties, but involved NLNG’s board of directors.

“The disagreement is between them, NLNG and their shareholders,” he pointed out, adding .that Nimasa would want the matter resolved as quickly as possible. “We are hurting,” Igbokwe said.

In the motion on notice, Adoke contended that Nimasa, being a corporate body with statutory powers to sue and be sued in its own name, should have been joined in the suit, contending that its non-inclusion as a party was a violation of the principles of fair hearing, which supposes that  the other side should be heard.

Adoke submitted that the dispute that gave rise to the suit was essentially between NLNG and Nimasa, adding that the non-inclusion of Nimasa was a deliberate move by NLNG to circumvent the provision of section 53(2) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act of 2007.

He maintained that the court would not have granted the ex-parte order if not for an alleged misrepresentation, concealment and non-disclosure of material facts by NLNG.

The government said there was no urgency whatsoever, shown by NLNG, let alone extreme urgency, warranting the granting of the ex-parte orders against the defendants and Nimasa.

The court had restrained the defendants from further detaining or preventing NLNG’s chartered vessels, from carrying out import and export of gas through the bonny channel or elsewhere in Nigeria. The order was made consequent upon an ex-parte application filed by the NLNG, after Nimasa allegedly blocked the bonny channel thereby preventing the entry and exit of NLNG’s vessels over alleged unpaid levies.

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