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OPL 245: Malabu Oil Drags House To Court Over Feb. 18 Resolution

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… Seeks N2bn Damages
BEVERLY HILLS, CA, June 02, (THEWILL) - Malabu Oil and Gas Limited Monday began moves to nullify the February 18 House of Representatives resolution on Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 in which it has an interest.

The company asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to set aside the House resolution directing the Federal Government to cancel the OPL 245 transaction in which the company is involved.

The company is also seeking the payment of N2billion as damages by the House of Representatives and other defendants in the suit 'for the stress and the psychological trauma' it allegedly underwent because of the defendants' 'unlawful interference' in the deal.

According to court papers seen by THEWILL, Malabu's counsel, Otunba Femi Fasawe, who filed the application on behalf of the oil and gas company, asked the court to set aside the resolution on the grounds that the House of Representatives lacked the power to determine the ownership structure of the OPL 245 deal, as it did in the said resolution.

The House resolution followed the investigation it carried out on the circumstances surrounding the dispute over the disposition of OPL 245 which involved the company, the Federal Government, Shell Nigeria Exploration, Production Company Limited and Nigeria Agip Exploration imited.

According to the court papers, ‎based on the report of Mr. Leo Ogor-led ad hoc committee, the House on February 18, among other resolutions, gave 50 per cent shareholding of Malabu to Mohammed Abacha, son of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. The House of Representatives was also said to have, in the said resolution, declared 30 per cent shares of the company for Kekwu Amafegba (Dan Etete) and the remaining 20 per cent for Pecos Energy Ltd. The House of Representatives was also said to have directed the Federal Government to cancel the OPL 245 transaction.

But Malabu had in a suit filed on its behalf by Mr. M. A Mogaji (SAN) on April 17 argued that the House of Representatives' resolution on its ownership structure was illegal and unconstitutional.

Maintaining that it was only a court of law that was empowered by the constitution to determine the ownership structure of a company, Malabu asked the court to declare that 'the decision and determination' of the House of Representatives was unconstitutional because it amounted to 'a piece of legislative judgment and a usurpation of the powers of the judiciary under section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.'

The company also asked the court to declare that not withstanding sections 88 and 89 of the constitution, the House of Representatives lacks the powers to pass any resolution interpreting, canceling and/or deciding legality or otherwise of the contractual agreements between the parties in the transaction.

It therefore sought 'an order setting aside the decision, determination and/or purported resolution HR. 111 of the House of Representatives of Tuesday, February 18, 2014' and another order of perpetual injunction from further interfering in the transaction illegally.

Listed as defendants in the suit are the House of Representatives; the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, and the Clerk of the House. Other defendants are the chairman of the House ad hoc committee which investigated the OPL 245 deal, Mr. Leo Ogor, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN).

However, the court could not proceed with the case when it came up for hearing Monday because two lawyers claimed they were representing Malabu Oil as presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed ‎adjourned the matter to July 8 to enable the plaintiff resolve the representation dispute .