Court sets aside order restraining FG from withdrawing marginal oil field licenses


Akin Kuponiyi
A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos on Friday set-aside its earlier order restraining the Federal Government of Nigeria from withdrawing licenses of 10 Marginal Oil Field Operators.
The  presiding Judge Chukwujekwu Aneke, set-aside the restraining order, based on an application brought before  the court by the Ministry of Petroleum and Engineer Auwaul Sarki, a Director in the Department Petroleum Resources (DPR), on the ground that they were not properly served with the court processes.
Justice Aneke, had on June 3, restrained the Federal government through the Ministry of Petroleum, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Engineer Auwalu Sarki, a Director in Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).The court also ordered that the order and processes in the motion on notice be served personally on the respondents.
Justice Aneke had made the restraining order after listening to an exparte application filed and argued behalf of the 10 Marginal Oil fields operators by  their counsels,  Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Mr. Uche Nwokedi (SAN).
They told the court that the order and other processes in the suit were served on the respondents via their official e-mail addresses.
In setting aside the restraining order, Justice Aneke, cited plethora of Supreme Court’s authorities and declared that the Marginal Oil fields Operators failed to comply with the court order, which directed then to serve all the processes on the respondents’ address, which he said was contrary to the Rules of admissibility,as the Practice Direction which the applicants based the service of the processes on can not supersede Court Rule, but ought to compliment it.
Consequently, Justice Aneke set-aside the restraining order made on June 3, 2020, against the respondents while ordering  that the whole processes should commence  afresh.
After the restraining order was set-aside, counsel to the 10 Marginal Oil fields Operators, Oyetibo (SAN), pleaded with the court to urge the counsel to the respondents to accept the services of the processes on behalf of their clients.
He also urged the court to make an order or urged the respondents not to tamper with the subject matter of the suit, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Responding, counsel to the respondents, Dr. Olawoyin (SAN), while conceding to accept the processes in the suit on behalf of his clients, also promised that the government will not do anything with the subject matter until the determination of the suit.
In urging the court to grant the exparte application, one of the lawyers to the Marginal Oil Fields Operators, Mr. Nwokedi  contended  that they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the production and development of the affected oil fields, adding that the purported revocation by the government violated their constitutional rights to fair hearing, their rights under the Petroleum Act and under the guidelines governing marginal Oil fields in Nigeria.
Consequently, they urged the court to halt the attempt by the Federal government to include the affected marginal Oil fields in the next bidding rounds for award of marginal Oil fields as it recently announced pending the determination of the substantive suit