​Court to hear appeal-challenging jurisdiction on $1.015b Chevron divestment suit


chevronHearing of the appeal on whether or not the Federal High Court can assume jurisdiction over a matter instituted by Britannia-U Nigeria Limited, seeking the court to restrain Chevron Nigerian Limited from divesting its interests in Oil Mining Leases (OML) 52, 53 and 55 to Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited has been fixed by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.

The Appellate Court on Tuesday, fixed November 22, 2016 for hearing of the substantive appeal on CA/L/557/2014. The appeal court had refused to entertain the Appellants’ Motion for Stay of Proceedings. The Court of Appeal held that the Motion would overreach the outcome of the Main Appeal.

The Court, however granted the Appellants’ (Chevron Nigeria Limited and BNP Paribas Securities Corp.) (i) Motion for Extension of Time to compile and transmit Additional Records of Appeal and Motion for Leave to appeal on grounds other than grounds of Law and Leave to amend their Notice of Appeal. The Appellants were given seven days to file their Amended Notice of Appeal.

In view of the restorative Orders granted by the Court, counsel representing Brittania-U Nigeria Limited withdrew the Application seeking to dismiss the Appeal for want of diligent prosecution. The Application was struck out. Parties are expected to file their Respective Briefs of Arguments within the time prescribed by the Rules of the Court of Appeal to ensure that the appeal will be heard on November 22, 2016.

Britannia-U Nigeria Limited had through its counsel, Ricky Tarfa (SAN) and Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) sued Chevron Nigeria Limited in 2013 along with four (4) other Defendants – Chevron USA Inc, BNP Paribas Securities Corp., Mr. Hermant Petel and Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited at the Federal High Court seeking to restrain them from awarding the interests in OMLs 52, 53 and 55 to Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited.

Justice Yunusa Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos had adjourned the suit sine die (till further notice) following the avalanche of appeals filed by the Defendants.

One of the appeals was decided by the Supreme Court on 29th January 2016 wherein the Court agreed with Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited that the Federal High Court erred in extending the lifespan of the ex-parte order of injunction granted upon an ex-parte application by Brittania-U Nigeria Limited.

However, Brittania-U Nigeria Limited’s Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction against the Defendants is still pending at the Federal High Court.

The Plaintiff (Britannia-U Nigeria Limited) had approached the court seeking for a declaration that by the final biding offer of $1,015,000,000.00 for acquisition of 40 percent participating interest of Chevron Nigeria in oil mining leases 52, 53 and 56 has been accepted by the first defendant.

In its statement of claim, the plaintiff stated that the second defendant, (Chevron USA) requested Britannia-U to provide firm Board commitment letter issued by the plaintiff’s bankers for payment of the balance of $765million which was complied with.

The plaintiff added that its bankers directly paid the money to the second defendant (Chevron Corp) at their Houston office on November 15, 2013 arguing that, with that it followed that the parties have entered into binding contract for the acquisition of the OMLs 52, 53 and 55 by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff pray the court to hold that its revised bid of $1, 015 billion for acquisition of the 40 per cent participating interest of Chevron Nigeria Limited in Oil Mining Leases 52, 53 and 56 is binding and subsisting.

The plaintiff added that by provision of the irrevocable Standby Letter of Credit for the sum of $250 million representing 15 per cent of company’s initial bid price of $1.667 billion, opened in favour of the first/second defendants on September 30, 2013 remain in force.

The plaintiff maintained that by the said irrevocable Letter of Credit which formed part of the conditions laid down by first/second defendants and for a binding bid, the SBLC is still being held by the first/second defendants Chevron Nigeria/(Chevron Corporation) till this moment.

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