12 July 2013, Lagos – Innocent AnabaThe stalled amicable resolution of the lingering tax dispute between Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas, NLNG, Limited and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Thursday, forced lawyers in the matter to argue their respective applications before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
The court, will meantime, today, deliver judgment in all the applications.
It will be recalled that NLNG had dragged the Attorney-General of the Federation and a private firm, Global West Vessels Specialists, to court over the alleged blockade of its vessels.
NIMASA was alleged to have carried out the action because of the refusal of NLNG to pay some statutory charges/taxes to the Federal Government.
It was also gathered that even though the matter had been settled through mediation, wherein NLNG was asked to pay the agreed outstanding taxes, it turned around to sue the Attorney-General of the Federation and Global West Vessels, a NIMASA agent, without joining NIMASA in the suit.
The court had, Monday, declined to renew an earlier ex-parte order it granted in favour of NLNG, even though it refused the applications by the defendants to vacate same.
At the hearing in the matter yesterday, the defendants argued their preliminary objections, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate on the suit as well as the commencement of contempt proceedings against them by NLNG.
Counsel to NIMASA had earlier drawn the attention of the court to the intervention of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim in the dispute.
He said: “The MD of NLNG was linked to the meeting via teleconference and after discussion, it was agreed that they (NLNG) should get their lawyer to vacate the interim order and proceed to pay the money they owe.
“I need to know if I’m on the same page with NLNG’s lawyer on this, otherwise I will proceed with my motions which are ripe for hearing.”
However, NLNG’s lawyer claimed ignorance of the meeting, insisting that the instruction from his client was to the effect that he should proceed with the court case.
The lawyer said: “I must say I’m taken aback by this practice. I don’t have any instruction to vacate the order.“The instruction I have is to move an application seeking to vary the order and I must say that we only agreed to pay under protest so that our vessels can be released.”
Afterward, counsel to parties argued their respective pending applications, which the court will rule on today.
Innocent Anaba, Vanguard.