The Supreme Court will today entertain an appeal brought against Chevron Nigeria Limited and Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc by Brittania-U Nigeria Limited over the sale of Chevron’s Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 52, 53 and 55.
Chevron had sold the three oil blocks despite the pending litigations at a Federal High Court, Appeal Court and the apex court arising from the disputes in the bid process leading to the sale of the three leases.
While Seplat acquired Chevron’s 40 per cent stake in OML 53 for $259.4, OMLs 52 and 55 were sold to AMNI International Petroleum Development Company and a Nigerian special purpose vehicle, Belema Oil Producing Limited, respectively.
Seplat has also concluded negotiations to buy 56.25 per cent of Belema Oil, which bought a 40 per cent interest in OML 55.
Speaking on the sale of the assets, which are a subject of the lawsuit, the Managing Director of Seplat, Mr. Austin Avuru told THISDAY that his company did not break any law in the acquisition of the assets.
“First of all, let me say that it is unthinkable that a corporate entity like Seplat that prides itself with corporate governance and due process will do anything that offends the laws of this country. It is unthinkable; we will not do that. We went through a process, a very rigorous process of bidding for an asset, almost two years ago from Chevron and as far back as November 2013, we signed an SPA (Sales and Purchase Agreement) with Chevron as part of that process and then, the court case came in where we were joined, and certain elements of the court case and certain injunction stopped the process from running its course. Running its course means after signing an SPA, you are supposed to seek ministerial approval and at the end of when you get ministerial approval, then the transaction is concluded. So, all that we have done recently is to run the full course of what we started by signing an SPA in November 2013. We ran the full course and got, you know, the ministerial approval, concluded the transaction with Chevron and as I said earlier, we broke no laws, whatsoever,” he explained.
Avuru said his company only concluded a normal commercial process it started about two years ago.
Brittania-U had dragged Chevron before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, claiming specific performance of the assignment of the three OMLs or $10billion damages for wrongful repudiation of the contract.
The matter later shifted to the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court but THISDAY gathered that the apex court is yet to fix a date for hearing of the suit when Chevron concluded the sale.
Lawyer to Brittania-U, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), had cautioned the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) not to be manipulated into pursuing extra-judicial advantage in contempt of court.
This caution, it was learnt, came few days after lawyer to Seplat, Mr. D. D. Dodo (SAN) on July 30, 2014, wrote to the minister and the NNPC, requesting them to grant consent to the bid process and divestment of the disputed oil blocks in favour of his client.
But Tarfa in a letter dated August 7, 2014, urged the minister to jettison the idea of Seplat’s lawyer, stressing that if the minister gave consent to the bid process and divestment of Chevron’s interest in the three leases, it would serve as an affront to the authority of the courts seized with the suit.
He reminded the minister that there was a pending application at the Supreme Court brought by Brittania-U, while the substantive suit is still pending at the trial court and had been stalled at the instance of Chevron and Seplat that had appealed against the decision of the trial court, which states that it had jurisdiction to determine the merit of the case.
By the terms of the acquisitions, SEPLAT will pay $132.2 million for its 22.50 per cent interest in OML 55, after adjustments and had also advanced certain loans of $80.0 million to the other shareholders of Belema Oil to meet their share of investments and costs associated with Belema Oil.