A Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday granted an application by the Federal Government, to amend processes in its suit against Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Plc, over alleged under-declaration of crude oil exports to the tune of $245 million.
Alleging that Total under-declared the volume of crude oil it shipped out of the country between January 2011 and December 2014, the plaintiff (FG) filed the action.
The Federal Government had sued the oil company for short-changing it to the tune of $245 million, by allegedly shipping several barrels of crude oil out of Nigeria, without making due remittances to it.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Mr. Charles Nwabulu announced appearance for the plaintiff, while Mr. H. Abudulkareem appeared for the defendant. Nwabulu then informed the court of a motion seeking leave to amend its pleadings.
He said the plaintiff had written to the court on December 9, 2016, and had filed an affidavit of urgency to enable it apply for hearing of its motion to amend it’s processes.
Moving in terms of his motion, Nwabulu said that his application was premised on the provisions of Order 17 rules 1, 2, and 3 as well as sections 36 of the 1999 constitution. He urged the court to grant plaintiff’s application and allow an amendment.
In response, defence counsel, Abdulkareem, said he was not opposed to the prayer for amendment, but urged that the court put it on record that the plaintiff had made several amendments in the suit.
He noted that the amendments of plaintiff’s processes had foisted it on the defence to make a consequential amendment on its statement of defence, adding that same should be put on record.
The defence counsel also prayed that upon a grant of amendment of the plaintiff’s processes, a time frame should be afforded the defence to regularise it’s statement of defence.
In a short ruling, the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun granted the plaintiff’s motion and adjourned the case to March 23.
In a related development, a similar suit between the Federal Government and Chevron Nig. Ltd, was also called up on Monday.
Mrs. Miannaya Essien (SAN) had announced appearance for the defendant, while Nwabulu also appeared for the Federal Government.
Nwabulu had also made similar application for amendment of plaintiff’s processes before the court.
“My lord, we have four motions in court and we had written a letter dated December 9, 2016 with an affidavit of urgency informing the court of our motion, so, if it pleases your lordship…” Justice Olatoregun abruptly cuts in, “it does not please me.”
She instantly chided plaintiff’s counsel for showing what she described as “lack of seriousness” in the suit, adding that the matter had been on for a long time, with no remarkable progress.
She noted that the matter was adjourned till yesterday for commencement of trial and asked the plaintiff for its witnesses.
The judge frowned at the habit of “pushing processes” instead of focusing on the business of the day, adding that it was an unacceptable practice. She urged counsel to exhibit due diligence in the matter.
Meanwhile, defence counsel informed the court that in spite of serving the plaintiff with a memorandum of appearance, the plaintiff still served processes directly on her client, instead of her chambers.
In response, Nwabulu apologised for the error adding that same will be redressed.
Consequently, the court granted the plaintiff’s application for amendment, but awarded a cost of N15, 000 against the plaintiff. She also fixed March 23 for trial.