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Suit against Chevron gets March 4 date

By The Citizen
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Justice Morenike Obadina of the Lagos High Court, Igbosere, yesterday, adjourned till March 4 the suit filed by Atlas International Engineering Services Limited against Field Offshore Design Engineering Limited over failed Chevron contract deal  to enable the plaintiff respond to the stay of proceedings application filed by the defendant.

Field Offshore had filed a notice of appeal against the ruling of the court, which assumed jurisdiction over the case and wants the lower court to stay proceedings pending the determination of its appeal at the Appeal Court. But Justice Obadina said she wants the plaintiff to respond to the applications on the adjourned date before taking a decision on the matter.

She had earlier ruled on a notice of preliminary objection filed by the defendant's counsel, Anthony Idigbe (SAN), challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter on the ground that the motion on notice was not properly served on the defendants.

Obadina said even though the defendants were not properly served, it was not enough to invalidate the process. 'I uphold this leg of objection. I hold that there is no proper service of the originating processes on the defendant. I accordingly set aside the service', she ruled, adding that the amended originating writ should be properly served on the defendants. 'It has been held that an amended original writ by addition or subtraction of a party is equivalent of a new writ that the party and the claimant should serve the amended writ in accordance with the rules for service in the Rules of Court', she ordered.

The defendant has also filed a notice of appeal against the judges' decision.

The judge had held that for the fact that the claimant sued a wrong name which its counsel, Theodore Ezeobi (SAN), admitted was done in error and had applied to correct it, the court could not dismiss the suit. 'The application of the claimant dated March 30, 2012, to correct the name by which the defendant was sued, is granted as prayed. I rely on my findings in respect of the first ground of objection. The amended writ of summons and statement of claim and all other originating processes shall be filed accordingly and served on the defendant within 14 days', she ordered and subsequently adjourned to February 18, for further directions.

The defendant, through its counsel, had filed the objection dated March 12, 2012, saying that the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit because there is no entity known as Fode Field/Off shore Design Engineering Limited, instead of Field Offshore Design Engineering Limited. The claimant had filed the suit in that name which was written in the contract document, not knowing that it was not the registered name of the company.

They also objected to the suit on the ground that the originating process was not served according to the CAMA and the rules of the court, a position the judge, however, agreed with and ordered a re-service.

Atlas International Engineering Services Limited had filed the suit claiming that by an agreement in writing made between the parties effective from may 26, 2008, the parties had a contract. According to the firm, it involves the claimant providing engineers to defendants on terms and conditions, which include remunerations set out in the agreement. Payment of claimant's invoice was to be made by the defendant not later than 45 days after receipt of the invoices or five days after receipt of equivalent payment from Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) whichever is sooner. Chevron is the client for both parties.

The plaintiff claimed that CNL had long made payments to the defendants but they refused to comply with the provisions of the agreement by paying the claimant its fees.

'The claimant supplied the engineers to the defendant and as agreed under the agreement issued to the defendant relative invoices for payment of remunerations, which payments the defendant has failed and or neglected to make despite repeated demands, leaving as at March 18, 2009, outstanding unpaid balances in naira and dollars accounts respectively as follows: N3,036,209.02 and $155,992.72', the claimant stated.

The claimant said the suit became necessary after repeated appeals by the claimant's counsel to the defendant to pay the debt was severally ignored.

It, therefore, prayed the court to order the defendant to pay it those monies including N6 million legal cost, 25 per cent interest per annum on each sum from the date of accrual of the last invoice till date of judgment, in addition to 25 per cent interest per annum on the judgment debt from the date of judgment till the date of payment.

The claim is supported by a written statement of evidence on oath of witness deposed to by Femi Amigun, an accountant with Atlas International Engineering Services Nigeria Limited, list of witness and documents to rely upon.