Lagos High Court on Thursday dismissed the suit instituted by a Norwegian oil firm, Statoil Nigeria Limited, against a businessman, John Abebe and his company, Inducon Nigeria Limited. The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, last month had dismissed the appeal filed by Statoil to challenge the judgment of a Federal High Court that it should pay Mr Abebe and his company 1.5 per cent of its profit accruable from the three oil blocks allocated to it by the Federal Government.
Justice Hellen Ogunwumiju who led the panel of Justice at the appeal court said that it would amount to an injustice if Mr Abebe and his company were not paid the amount knowing full well that he brought the foreign oil firm to Nigeria to exploit crude oil.Justice Ogunwumiju, who read the lead judgment said Statoil’s appeal lack merit and dismissed it, she also awarded a cost of N50, 000 against it.
She faulted the argument of the oil firm and its counsel, Fidelis Oditah that judgment of the lower court was against the weight of evidence adduced, adding that their arguments was of no value. She said since there was an alliance between British Petroleum (BP) and Statoil and Mr Abebe, the fact that BP later pulled out and left the country does not mean that the agreement reached with the businessman had died.
The case started when Abebe filed an action against Statoil at the Federal High Court in Lagos, contending that in April 1990, he was informed by British Petroleum (BP) that it was interested in pursuing opportunities in the Nigerian oil industry together with its partner Statoil of Stavanger, Norway with whom it had entered into an Alliance agreement.
According to him, the alliance, as it was represented to him, would present the first ever opportunity for Statoil, then an indigenous Norwegian company, to operate outside its home base, Norway and to venture into West Africa, amongst others. The businessman added that he was also instrumental to ensuring that the production sharing contracts for the blocks were signed with NNPC and all these were achieved due to his extensive contacts in government and the oil and gas sector.
Justice Charles Archibong while delivering his judgment in December 2010 ordered the oil firm to pay Abebe and his company, 1.5per cent net profit interest accruable to it from the three oil blocks allocated to them for bringing the firm to Nigeria to explore oil resources.The judge held that there was indeed an agreement between him, BP and Statoil contrary to the claim of the oil firm, which must be honored.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, Statoil headed to the Court of Appeal and later instituted another suit the Lagos High Court in Igbosere.