Malabu seeks court’s order to suspend $13.5bn Zabazaba Deep water project deal

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ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, fixed May 18 to hear a motion seeking to stop the Federal Government from entering into any Final Investment Decision (F.I.D) Agreement with any person in respect of Zabazaba Deep water project located within the disputed Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 245.
The motion on notice marked FHC/ABJ/CS/201/2017 was filed before the court by Malabu Oil & Gas Limited.
Aside FG, other Defendants/Respondents in the suit are the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production a company Ltd, Nigerian Agip Exploration Company Ltd, EFCC and Chief Dan Etete.
The applicant specifically prayed the court to stop the defendants from going ahead with their plan to sign a $13.5billion Zabazaba Deep water project agreement within the second quarter of this year.
It urged the court to grant interlocutory reliefs barring such agreement since the project would be located within OPL 245 which is still a subject of litigation.
Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd equally applied for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining FG and the Minister of Petroleum Resources from considering to revoke or revoking the re- allocation of OPL 245 granted to it by virtue of the 1st & 2nd defendants’ letter of July 2, 2010, pending the determination of this suit.
The applicant’s counsel, Mr. J.A. Achimugwu, said the motion was triggered by media publications indicating that FG and Shell are negotiating to sign F.I.D for the $13.5billion Zabazaba Deep water Project located in the disputed oil bloc.
Meanwhile, Justice John Tsoho fixed May 18 to hear the motion, even as he granted the applicant leave to serve the Writ of Summons and relevant processes on Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited at its office situated at No. 21 and 22 Marina Avenue, Lagos.
The applicants are among other things, seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining each and all the defendants/respondents by themselves, their Servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from offering for sale, selling, mortgaging or in any form whatsoever alienate and / or grant any oil Prospecting Licence or lease to any other person or persons in respect of Zabazaba Deep water and /or Etan oil fields located within the area of the oil prospecting Licence 245 (OPL245) the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st & 2nd defendants/respondents (Federal government and the Minister Petroleum Resources) by themselves, their Servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from entering into any form of agreement with the 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants/ Respondents or with any third parties to prospect for and / or explore for Oil/ petroleum products within the area covered by Zabazaba Deep water and /or Etan oil fields within the area covered by the oil prospecting Licence 245 (OPL245) the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st & 2nd defendants/respondents by themselves, their Servants or agents or howsoever otherwise from considering to revoke or revoking the re- allocation of OPL 245 granted to the applicant by virtue of the 1st & 2nd defendants’ letter of July 2, 2010 pending the determination of this suit”.
In a 29 paragraphs affidavit attached in support of the motion, son of late former Head of State, Mohammed Sani Abacha, told the court that he owns 50% of the share capital of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and have been very much involved in the affairs of the firm.
Mohammed averred that Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd applied for Oil prospecting licence (OPL) and was granted same by the Minister of Petroleum Resources (2nd respondent) on April 29, 1998 via a letter of the allocation of OPL 245.
He said that in pursuance of the allocation of OPL 245 to the firm, the plaintiff made payments of N50,000, as application fees, $10, 000 as bid processing fees and part payment of or a deposit payment of $2, 40,000 as signature bonus.
He said that on July 2, 2001, the Federal government and Minister of Petroleum Resources revoked the licence for the oil bloc it granted to the plaintiff.
Mohammed stated that the plaintiff sued FG at the Federal High Court over the said revocation of OPL 245 but the matter was subsequently resolved through an out of court settlement agreement by the parties.
“That it was common understanding between the plaintiff and the Federal government in the out of court settlement agreement that the Federal government would re- allocate the Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL245) to the plaintiff.
“That while the re-allocation to the plaintiff OPL 245 was subsisting, the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th defendants and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation surreptitiously entered into what they called block 245 resolution agreement dated April 29, 2011, wherein the defendants agreed inter alia that the Federal government shall allocate Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL 245) to Shell Nigeria Ultra-Deep Limited and Nigerian Agip Exploration Company Ltd. (4th and 5th) defendants, without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiff.
“That the plaintiff was never a party to Block 245 resolution agreement purporting to require the plaintiff to relinquish it’s rights and interest in OPL 245 to any defendants.
“That the plaintiff had sourced for and entered into contractual agreement with its technical partners for the effectual realisation of OPL 245 and unless the defendants are restrained, the applicant will be forced thereby to breach contractual agreements with its technical partners and thereby lose its international business goodwill and reputation”, he added.
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