Oil free zones: court hears suit against OGFZA on June 1
A Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed June 1, 2020 for definite hearing on a suit seeking judicial intervention against alleged attempt by Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, OGFZA, to regulate the oil and gas operations within the Snake Island Integrated Free Zone, SIIFZ.
Nigerdock Nigeria Plc, Simco Freezone Company and Nigerdock Nigeria Plc-FZE had in 2016, dragged OGFZA before the Federal High Court over its insistence on regulating SIIFZ. Also joined in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation as well as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Counsel to the plaintiffs, Qudus Mumumey, disclosed in a telephone interview that the case had come up on February 26 and scheduled for definite hearing on June 1 before Justice Aneke Chukwujekwu.
According to Mumumey the defendants were aware of the pendency of the suit having filed their responses and represented in court by counsel.
He said “In the light of the foregoing, the current letter from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is contemptuous, abusive, oppressive and a clear attempt to undermine the authority of the Honourable Court.’’
OGFZA had acted upon a directive of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and served letters on all oil and gas free zones including SIIFZ, informing them of its readiness to implement the minister’s directive which empowered the authority to assume full regulatory powers over those zones.
Following the directive, Nigerdock and others filed Originating Summons at the Federal High Court in 2016 seeking judicial intervention in the attempt made by OGFZA to regulate the oil and gas operations within SIIFZ.
Consequently, the plaintiffs are seeking to know whether by the clear provisions of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act, Cap No. 107, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, Snake Island Integrated Free Zone, SIIFZ, should be regulated by the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority, NEPZA, being the Authority vested with the administration of the Authority and management of all the Export Processing Zones.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs are further seeking court determination on whether or not the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, by the Provision of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act Cap 05, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, is empowered to regulate the Onne/Ikpokiri Export Free Zone and by extension regulate other Oil and Gas Export Free Zones in Nigeria.
It also seeks clarification whether by the letter from the Attorney General of the Federation captioned Re: Interpretation of the provisions of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Act, Cap No 107, LFN, 2004 and Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act, Cap 05, LFN 2004 as to which government agency is seized with responsibility over oil and gas free zone in Nigeria dated 25th March 2008, the Attorney General of the Federation did not merely reinstate the provisions of the NEPZA and OGFZA Act.
In the suit, the plaintiff averred that if the answers to the above questions were in the affirmative, the court should not hesitate in granting a declaration that the NEPZA is responsible for the administration and regulation of the Snake Island Integrated Free Zone.
The plaintiffs are also seeking the declaration that the first defendant is responsible for the administration and regulation of the Onne/Ikpokiri Export Free Zone and Oil and Gas Export Free Zones in Nigeria.
The suit further seeks a declaration that the letter from the Attorney General of the Federation dated March 25, 2008, merely reinstated the provisions of the NEPZA and OGFZA Acts.
The plaintiff, therefore, went ahead seeking an order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants their privies, agents, and servants from projecting itself as the Authority with the statutory powers and authority to license and regulate the operations and activities in Snake Island Integrated Free Zone.
They also asked fora Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants their privies, agents, and servants from interfering with, obstructing and/or disturbing the activities of SIMCO Free Zone Company from the Management of the Snake Island Free Zone pending the determination of the case.
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