By Aaron Ossai
The Federal High Court, Abuja, has moved ruling on two separate applications filed by Shell Oil Exploration Nigeria Limited and Agip Oil, seeking to vary an order made on January 26, till Friday, March 17.
The order had granted temporary forfeiture of the Oil Prospective Licence (OPL 245) bloc to the Federal Government.
The ruling could not go on as earlier scheduled by the court following three fresh applications filed by Malabu Oil, seeking to be joined in the matter as well as for an opportunity to be a party in the already heard applications filed by Shell and Agip.
Counsel to Malabu Oil, Abdullahi Haruna told Justice John Tsoho that the applications had been served on parties and that they have responded accordingly.
He also stated that the joinder application was aimed at reopening hearing to accommodate Malabu Oil on the applications made by Shell and Agip.
The purpose, Haruna explained to the court, was to enable Malabu Oil join others as respondents.
But counsel to Agip and Shell, Babatunde Fagbola and Muyiwa Balogun, respectively had opposed the applications and urged court to dismiss them summarily.
Fagbola described the application as frivolous and consequently urged the court to dismiss it summarily from the bench.
He argued, “when a court hears a matter and adjourns for ruling, party(ies) cannot pull back the hands of the clock.”
On his part, Balogun reminded the court that at the last adjourned date being February 27, “counsel to Malabu Oil drew attention of the court to his applications that were yet to be filed and served, but that the court ruled that the proposed applications should be in abeyance.”
“By these applications, Malabu Oil is asking the court to sit on appeal over its own ruling”, he said.
Balogun therefore asked the court to dismiss the applications summarily.
Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Johnson Ojogbane, did not file any application but rather left the issue at the court’s discretion.
However, Haruna, pursuant to Order 27, Rule Six of the Federal High Court Rules, filed what he described as “innocuous application” by way of motion on notice, introducing a further affidavit (criminal charge filed against the defendants) by the Federal Government before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In his ruling on that, Justice John Tsoho, granted leave and deemed the further affidavit as properly filed.
Though Shell and Agip had told the court not to accord any probate value to the further affidavit (criminal charge) because it was not yet filed when their applications were argued and date fixed for ruling.
But after taking submissions of counsels, Justice Tsoho, who expressed dismay over the applications, remarked that even though Malabu Oil’s application was irritating, “in the interest of fair hearing, an application before a court must be heard.’’
He consequently adjourned ruling on Malabu’s applications to March 17.