As the $620,000 subsidy probe’s bribery allegation rages, one of the oil marketers indicted by the Lawan Farouk led House of Reps’ Ad Hoc Committee on Petroleum Subsidy Regime, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, on Wednesday secured a temporary reprieve as a Federal High Court in Abuja stopped the Federal Government from acting on the Committee’s report pending the determination of a case instituted by the company.
Justice Gladys Olotu made the interim order following a mutual agreement by lawyers to the parties in the suit, that their clients would not do anything that would affect the pending suit.
The court expressed satisfaction with the maturity of the senior advocates in the matter which led to the peaceful resolution of some knotty issues occasioned by the suit without belabouring the court to hear parties’ arguments and having to make a ruling over their different positions.
While explaining the implication of the court’s order, lead counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, a senior advocate of Nigeria stated that parties in the matter had reached a “no arrest, no detention, no prosecution and no refund agreement” pending the determination of the suit.
The House of Representatives and the suspended Chairman of the committee, Farouk Lawan were listed as first and second defendants.
Awomolo and Damien Dodo, also a senior advocate of Nigeria, represented the Attorney General of the Federation who was listed as the third defendant.
The House of Reps Committee had in its report asked Integrated Oil and Gas to refund N13. 2 billion subsidy money paid to it by the Federal Government for petroleum products it imported between 2006 and 2011 on the ground that the amount was not sustainable. The company was dissatisfied and instructed its lawyer, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, a senior advocate of Nigeria, to file a suit.
It asked the court among others to nullify the Committee’s report because it was not given fair hearing before it came to its conclusion. It also asked the court to restrain the House of Reps, the AGF, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission from acting on the report.
In the interim, the company asked for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the AGF, EFCC, ICPC and the Inspector General of Police from acting on the report of the Ad Hoc Committee pending the final determination of the case filed by it.
At the hearing of the case, arguments ensued on whether the court could stop the anti-graft agencies from carrying out their statutory duty. It was at this point that the presiding judge, Justice Olotu, excused the counsel and gave them twenty minutes to confer and agree on the position to be adopted by the court.
All the lawyers consequently agreed that no action would be taken against the company until the court has given final judgment in the case. After commending the lawyers for their maturity, the judge consequently issued an order based on the agreement stopping the defendants from acting on the report as it affected Integrated Oil and Gas pending the time she would give final judgment.
In an affidavit he deposed to, the Managing Director of the company, Anthony Ihenacho said that his company did not collect any subsidy for petroleum products not imported. According to him, “Up till date, we do not know how the 1st and 2nd Respondents (Ad Hoc Committee and Farouk Lawan) arrived at their decision that the sum of N13. 2 billion out of the subsidy funds received by our company was not sustainable and therefore not good enough to attract any subsidy.”
He also stated that the findings of the committee violated the principle of natural justice and should be nullified.
Justice Olotu adjourned further hearing in the matter to 18 October 2012 after she granted an application for accelerated hearing of the case.