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Court dismisses Statoil appeal

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LAGOS—The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, yesterday, dismissed the appeal by Statoil Nigeria Limited, challenging the judgment of a Federal High Court, Lagos, which had ordered it (Statoil) to pay Dr John Abebe and his company, Inducon Nigeria Limited, 1.5 per cent of its profit accurable from the three oil blocs it is exploiting in the Niger Delta.

The money, close to $3 billion, according to the court, is to compensate Abebe for bringing the oil company to the country to business in the early 90s.

The appellate court, in a unanimous decision, said it would amount to injustice, if Abebe and his company were not paid the money for bringing the oil company into the country.

Justice Hellen Ogunwumiju, in her lead judgment, held that Statoil’s appeal lacked merit and same was dismissed.
The court rejected Statoil’s argument, that the judgment of the lower court was against the weight of evidence adduced.
It will be recalled that the lower court had held that the arguments of the appellant (Statoil) was no of value.

The lower court held that since there was an alliance between British Petroleum, BP and Statoil and Abebe, because BP later divested and left the country does not mean that the agreement reached with the businessman had ceased to exist.

The court added that since Statoil became a beneficiary of the crude oil exploitation, it meant that it inherited the agreement and was ordered to pay Abebe and his company, 1.5per cent net profit interest accruable to it from the three oil blocks allocated to them for bringing the firm to Nigeria to explore oil resources.

On whether there was an enforceable agreement in law between the plaintiffs and the defendant, the court held that though it appeared that there was no written agreement, BP and by extension, Statoil engaged the plaintiff as partner and thereby took up the commitment of BP to the defendant.

The  court held that the commitment was not terminated or abandoned with the plaintiff, even though that Statoil later resisted it after its entrance into the Nigerian economy.

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