By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Jabi, on Thursday, granted the Department of State Service, DSS, the nod to hold the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas Ltd, Ifeanyi Ubah, for another 14 days.
Justice Yusuf Halilu extended the detention order following an ex-parte application the DSS filed through its lawyer Mr. G.O.A. Agbadua.
The agency said it filed the application considering that an earlier order the court granted it on May 10, elapsed on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ubah’s lawyer, Mrs Ifeoma Esom has filed a fresh application asking the court to compel the DSS to release her client on administrative bail.
It will be recalled that the security agency had in a counter-affidavit it filed before the court, alleged that Ubah committed an economic sabotage punishable by death.
It told the court that the detained oil mogul illegally diverted about 84 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (commonly called petrol), that was kept in his custody by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The DSS, while opposing an application that sought to vacate the remand order it secure against Ubah, stated in the counter-affidavit deposed by one of its operatives, Mr. Safwan Bello, that the PMS Ubah diverted was valued at N11billion.
It averred that several effort by the NNPC to recover the PMS it kept in Ubah’s tank farm failed as the applicant had converted it to his personal use.
The agency maintained that Ubah’s action was capable of causing artificial scarcity of the product thus plunging the country not only into widespread scarcity of PMS but also in economic chaos.
According to the DSS, “The respondent (Ubah) was arrested on reasonable suspicion of his involvement in the commission of crime.
“The respondent refused to return the PMS to NNPC after repeated demands. The PMS is worth over N11bn. The action of the respondent is affecting the distribution of petroleum products to the populace.
“The action of the respondent is sabotage of NNPC’s activities as it relates to distribution of petroleum products. If not for the urgent steps taken by the Federal Government, the action of the respondent would have plunged the country into widespread scarcity with its attendant effect on the economy”.
However, Ubah’s lawyer, Esom, has accused the DSS of surreptitiously securing an order to detain her client.
Esom alleged that the agency suppressed material facts when on May 10, it persuaded the court to allow it to hold Ubah in its custody for 14 days.
In an application anchored on section 298(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, Ubah, told the court that “Capital Oil and Gas Ltd (COG) of which the respondent is the CEO has always been one of NNPC’s largest Throughput providers and this is evidenced by Throughput agreements entered into between NNPC subsidiaries and COG over the years.
“These Throughput agreements, in accordance with the norms and practice in the industry worldwide, allow conversion and diversion of IT products by the ‘Operator’ so long as the Operator is prepared to re-deliver the products (in terms of the current contract) within 7 days of demand by the products owner or to pay a penalty for non re-delivery.
“The penalty to re-deliver is expressly stated by the Contract to be a mere breach of contract remediable by the payment of penalty to the owner. The penalty is comprised of the cost of delivery of the products to the Operator’s tank farm with interest at Nibor+1.
“There can therefore be no issue of crime in conversion or diversion of products under a throughput contract (regardless of the ordinary connotations of those words).”
She revealed that the DSS earlier arrested Ubah at his house in Lagos on March 24 and kept him in its custody until April 14 when he was temporarily and conditionally released after he had been coerced into making payment of N2billion and executing various documents in favour of NNPC and AMCON.
Esom told the court that when Ubah returnes to his home in Lagos, in fear for his life and liberty should he renew his claims that he is not indebted to either NNPC Retail Ltd or AMCON as he had maintained before his incarceration, instructed his counsel to file an application for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.
“Notwithstanding the pendency of the suit and the service of the originating processes, the SSS again invited the Respondent to report to its offices in respect of the same allegations made by the NNPC and AMCON which is the subject matter of the suit.
“On the 5th of May 2017, the SSS arrested the respondent in Lagos and moved him to their Abuja office”.