Saturday, May 23, 2015

After 22 Years, French court orders NNPC to pay Lenoil N95bn

The French Court of Appeal in Paris has ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to pay LUTIN Investments (BVI) Limited (Lenoil Group) the sum of $477 million, about N95 billion using interbank rate.
The dispute, which started 22 years ago, has seen both LUTIN and the corporation traversing the courtrooms and arbitration centres in Nigeria and France      
According to the document made available to THISDAY, the case started in July 1993 when NNPC illegally terminated $300 million strategic reserve contract with LUTIN; and agreed to pay compensation.
Failing to pay, the matter was referred to an arbitrator (retired and late Supreme Court Justice Uche Omo) in 1994.
Dissatisfied with the arbitrator, NNPC sued the arbitrator and LUTIN in 1994.
In 2006, after losing at the Federal High Court, and Court of Appeal), the Nigerian Supreme Court ruled against NNPC, and the matter was returned to the arbitrator for adjudication.
In May 2007, the arbitrator ruled that NNPC should pay LUTIN the sum of $55,281,000, N20,400, and N4,690,000; plus compound interest of 10 per cent, 10 per cent, and 21 per cent respectively from 1993 till full payment is made.
Frustrated with NNPC’s inability to comply with signed agreements, and almost 18 years of litigation in Nigeria, LUTIN applied for enforcement of the Supreme Court backed Arbitral Award in West Africa, Europe, and the United States in 2011.
In December 2011, the Senegalese High Court ruled that NNPC must pay the full award of $330 million, and ordered the seizure of NNPC’s crude oil.
After numerous appeals to President Goodluck Jonathan, the President in February 2012 directed the Justice Ministry and NNPC to honour the consent judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja; but NNPC and the Petroleum Minister refused, and advised Mr. President investigate LUTIN for “possible fraudulent activities in 1993”.
In spite of the numerous advices for an out-of-court settlement by the late Chief Bola Ige, SAN, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, Chief Kayode Adetokunbo, SAN, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, and senior officials of the Ministry of Justice, NNPC continued the litigation for 22 years.
On December 2, 2014, the French court ruled against all the defences put up by NNPC, including the settlement agreements, and ordered NNPC to pay LUTIN the sum of $477,365,000.00 (N96 billion); or $503,000,000.00 as of today (May 23, 2015).
“Since Nigeria is a signatory to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and United Nations Charter on International arbitration, it is hopeful that NNPC will be made to comply with the French court ruling; to avoid its assets (crude oil, bank accounts, and refined petroleum products) from being seized and/or confiscated outside Nigeria,” said one of the lawyers who represented LUTIN during the trial in Paris.
In addition to a strong legal team in New York, Paris, and Dakar, LUTIN was represented by a team of Nigeria’s brightest Senior Advocates: Mr. Uche Nwokedi, SAN, Dr. Gbolahan Elias, SAN, Chief Femi Falana, SAN, Mr. Tokunbo Williams SAN, Mr. Ricky, Tarfa, SAN, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, Late Chief FRA Williams, SAN; while NNPC was represented by Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN.


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