By Wandoo Sombo
A Federal High Court, Maitama Abuja, has vacated its order for a temporary forfeiture of Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 to the Federal Government, pending the conclusion of investigation by the EFCC.
Justice John Tsoho, on Jan. 26, made the order of temporary forfeiture of OPL 245 to the Federal Government.
At the resumed hearing, Tsoho vacated his own order, following applications by Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd, challenging the validity of the orders.
Tsoho held that the orders for forfeiture were irregularly made, because the EFFC’s ex-parte application on which basis the orders were made were not properly filed.
He said that as a result of that, the ownership of the OPL should be returned to Shell and Agip.
The judge also dismissed an application filed by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, seeking to be joined as parties in the matter.
Malabu had sought to stop the delivery of the ruling on the order of forfeiture on the grounds that it would be affected by the court’s decision.
The judge said the application by Malabu was an abuse of court process and only intended to waste the time of the court.
He directed parties who had issues with the Malabu deal – OPL 245, to file fresh cases and ventilate their grievances.
The OPL 245 is the oil well at the centre of the controversial Malabu Oil deal, in which the EFCC had filed three separate charges against former Attorney -General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.
Others charged with Adoke were the former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete and others.
Shell had argued that the EFCC chairman was wrong in law to have brought the ex-parte motion that led to the order of forfeiture in his capacity as chairman.
Shell’s lawyer, Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN, argued that Section 28 of the EFCC’s Act, did not allow the chairman to bring an ex-parte application in his capacity as chairman.
The EFCC’s counsel, Mr Johnson Ojogbane, however maintained that the ex-parte application was filed by the chairman in line with Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution.