10 July 2013, Lagos – A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, will tomorrow (Thursday) continue hearing in the suit between the Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas, NLNG, Limited and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, over the detention of NLNG vessel by NIMASA.
It will be recalled that the vessels were detained over alleged failure of NLNG to pay some statutory charges/taxes to the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, is to rule on two preliminary objections by a private firm, Global West Vessels Specialists, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate on the suit as well as the commencement of contempt proceedings against it.
Global West was sued as an agent of NIMASA alongside the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Bello Adoke.
Arguing the objections, Global West’s council, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko, SAN, prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that proper parties were not sued as defendants, contending that the court had been robbed of jurisdiction owing to the fact that the suit was incurably defective.
Citing Supreme Court decisions, he contended that “The deliberate failure of NLNG to sue NIMASA is aimed at circumventing Section 53 (2) of NIMASA Act which mandates them to file a pre-action notice. At this stage, that error is fatal to the case of the plaintiff and it cannot be rectified by amendment or joinder.
“My Lord, even the AGF is not a proper party to this suit as the Supervisory Minister for NIMASA is the Transport Minister. So, in essence, NLNG has failed to sue the proper defendants,” Owonikoko argued.
On the commencement of contempt, Owonikoko said that NLNG failed to comply with the proper procedures, as same was served on one Romeo Itimi, who died in 2012.
Replying, NLNG’s lawyer, argued that the case of his client was primarily against the Federal Government and its agents, and that AGF could be sued in any matter involving the Federal Government.
According to suit, NLNG is claiming $37 million damages against the defendants jointly and severally over the said blockade of its Vessels.
Justice Idris had on June 18 granted an ex-parte order restraining the defendants from charging, imposing, demanding or collecting the three percent of gross freight earnings or any other sums further to Section 15(a) of NIMASA Act 2007 on all of NLNG’s international inbound or outbound cargo ships owned, contracted or subcontracted by it.
On Monday, Justice Idris struck out two applications by the AGF and Global West, asking that the ex-parte order should be discharged, though the judge refused to re-validate the ex-parte, when asked to do so by NLNG’s lawyer.