Court orders oil bizman, Awosika, others to appear or risk contempt
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the appearance Of a Nigerian businessma, Abiodun Awosika, three Others For Alleged Contempt and alleged disobedience to court order.
Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa made the order on Thursday sequel to a motion filed a Receiver Manager to Sentinel Exploration And Production Limited, Kunle Ogunba SAN but argued by Taiwo Ogunba. Others alleged Contemnors Olukayode Pitan, Adekunle Areogun and Dr. Steve Uhunmwangho.
The court ordered the alleged contemnors to appear before it after dismissing their preliminary objection filed by them. The court also adjourned till May 30, for hearing of committal proceedings against the alleged contemnors.
Parties in the suit are: Excel Exploration And Production Limited, plaintiff/respondent and alleged Contemnor; while Access Bank Plc; Sentinel Exploration And Production Limited (in receivership) and Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN) appointed over Sentinel Exploration And Production Limited, as the Receiver/ Manager, under the Deed of Appointment dated March 6, 2019, as defendants/applicants.
Urging the court to commit the alleged contemnors to prison for disobeying the court orders, the applicant, in an affidavit In Support Of Form 49 deposed to by Obinna Ukpai Kalu, a lawyer in the Chamber of Ogunba & Associates, stated that the court on November 18, 2021, delivered a ruling directing Excel Exploration And Production Limited- Plaintiff/Respondent in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/373/21, to furnish monthly activity report to the three defendants (which include details on mining lifting and crude oil sale) on the Eremor Marginal Field 46) and to carry the 3rd defendant, Kunle Ogunba (SAN) (Receiver/Manager of the second applicant) the activities relating to the Eremor Marginal Field
He stated that Plaintiff/Respondent “a benefit of the doubt” to the applicants, vide their counsel on record authored a correspondence dated 1st December 2021 to the Plaintiff/Respondent demanding for a monthly activity report to the 3rd Defendant (which include details on mining lifting and crude oil sale) on the Eremor Marginal Field (OML 46) in line with the order of this Honourable Court made on 1st November 2021.
He consequently asked the court for “an order granting leave to the Applicants to lift the veil of incorporation of the Plaintiff/Respondent in tandem with the subsisting interim order of this Honourable court to such an extent as to permit, authorize and/or sanction contempt and/or committal proceedings against the persons behind their disobedience to Order of this court as per the FORM 48 (previously issued) and the FORM 49 originated by the foregoing.
But the alleged contemnors in their affidavit to show cause why order of committal should not be made against them deposed to by Abiodun Awosika, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Excel Exploration and Production Limited, stated that he was aware that on November 1, 2021, the court ordered the first Respondent to render monthly accounts of activities on the Eremor Marginal Field to the Receiver/Manager of the second Defendant.
He stated that the first respondent was dissatisfied with the Order and did file a Notice of Appeal to the Court of Appeal within the statutory prescribed time on 11th November 2021. Adding that the Record of Appeal was transmitted and the appeal entered at the Court of Appeal on December 14, 2021. Though the Record of Appeal was transmitted out of time, the 1st Respondent has a pending application for extension of time to regularise same before the Court of Appeal.
He stated that thereafter, the first respondent filed at the Court of Appeal, an application for injunction pending appeal dated May 10, 2022, adding that the Notice of Appeal and the application for injunction have been served on the Defendants and are still pending before the Court of Appeal. As a matter of fact, the Applicants have joined issues with the first Respondent on the motion for injunction by filing a Counter-Affidavit dated 3 June 2022 to the motion.
He stated that it was the advice of counsel that pending the exercise of a right of appeal to a higher court and in light of the pending applications, the respondent cannot be compelled to comply with the order under appeal. And that the first Respondent’s failure to obey the Order of court was not wilful, deliberate or out of disrespect to this Honourable Court but consequent on the exercise of its rights in the pending appeal against the Order and the injunction pending appeal as stated above. And that the first respondent reiterated this position in its responses dated December 6, 2021 and January 27, 2022 to the Applicants’ letters demanding compliance with the Order on the following dates, December 9, 2021 and January 28, 2022.
He further stated that on June 3, 2022, when this suit came up for trial the Court did not proceed with the trial on the ground that the Applicants had taken steps to commence contempt proceedings against the directors of the 1st Respondent for alleged non-compliance with the order made on November 1, 2021. This procedure was taken by the Applicants notwithstanding their knowledge of the pending appeal and application for injunction pending appeal by an ex parte application before this honourable Court.
Awosika stated that Mr. Olukayode Pitan, the second cited person is not a director of the first Respondent. Adding that it will be in the interest of justice for this Honourable Court to refuse and dismiss the application to commit all and any of the cited Persons to prison,
“An order of the court giving final Judgment to the Counter Claimant as per its Counter Claim and consequently compelling the first defendant to pay the sum of $55,002,400.46 million USD, being the principal sum and Interest thereon on the credit facilities advanced to both the Defendants to the Counter Claim (by the terms of the FSA, Undertaking dated 26th March 2014 and Escrow Agreement executed sometime in 2014) by the Counter Claimant forthwith.
He stated that thereafter, the first respondent filed at the Court of Appeal, an application for injunction pending appeal dated May 10, 2022. The Application for injunction pending appeal dated May 10, 2022. Adding that the Notice of Appeal and the application for injunction have been served on the Defendants and are still pending before the Court of Appeal. As a matter of fact, the Applicants have joined issues with the 1 Respondent on the motion for injunction by filing a Counter-Affidavit dated 3 June 2022 to the motion.
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