By Udeme Akpan
11 Plc, formerly Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc, has petitioned police authorities over Ascon Oil Nigeria Limited alleged occupation of a filling station, located in a piece of land belonging to the late Chief Sunday Ogunyade in Gbagada, Lagos.
While 11 Plc said its lease of the land from the late Sunday Ogunyade’s family would expire in 2020, Ascon maintained that it remains the owner of the property, having bought it from the family, a development which made Justice A.M. Lawal of High Court of Lagos to earlier ruled that the two parties should stay clear from the property until the case of ownership is decided by the court.
Meanwhile, in a letter sent to the Commissioner of Police dated September 17, 2018, a copy which was made available to Vanguard, P.C. Obi & Co, lawyers to 11 Plc company stated: “We have just received another damning report by our client, informing us that Ascon officials, in the company of ten police men, went to the subject station on September 11, 2018 and the early hours of September 12, 2018 respectively, where they were seen to position fire extinguishers on the pump islands and also positioned cars on all the pumps presumably with a view to commencing sales at the station.
“We wish to further warn that this is an act of lawlessness, which not only constitutes flagrant disobedience to the orders of Justice A.M Lawal of Lagos State High Court restraining both parties from the station but would also amount to theft as our client has 42,0000 litres of PMS at the station. A copy of the order of court is attached herewith for your ease of reference.
“We are appalled at the fact that the policemen under your command who are supposed to champion the rule of law have continued to be complicit in violating the law and order. We note that Ascon has, in cahoots with the police under your command, persisted in disregarding and disobeying the law in impunity.”
In another petition directed to the Inspector General of Police, dated September 14, 2018, 11 Plc stated: “In the aftermath of the invasion, we also filed a suit against Ascon, on the basis of which Justice A. M. Lawal of the Lagos State High Court made an order restraining both parties from the station. A copy of the order is enclosed herewith for your ease of reference.
“However, in spite of the indictment by your office and the extant order of Justice A. M. Lawal, the commissioner has been aiding Ascon to frustrate your directives as well as disobey the court’s order. In this regard, the commissioner has posted policemen to the station who routinely allow Ascon officials and thugs to do as they please.”
The policemen had allowed Ascon officials/thugs to do as they please. The policemen had allowed Ascon officials/thugs to remove the Mobil sign posts and other materials at the station and replace them with that of Ascon. The policemen on the instructions of the commissioner have been giving access to Ascon engineers to inspect and work at the station.
“On September 11, 2018, we received reports that Ascon officials, in the company of 10 policemen, have been visiting the station, positioning fire extinguishers on the pump islands and carrying out other activities preparatory to commencing sales. In fact, Ascon have today, September 14, 2018 started selling the 42,000 litres of PMS we have at the station, an action that constitutes flagrant violation of the court’s order and blatant act of theft.”
In his ruling, dated May 23, 2018, Justice A.M. Lawal, High Court of Lagos had declared: “The argument of the two sides drifted to the issue of, which of the two sides is entitled to the possession of the property in issue, the contention of the Applicant is that she is in possession, and possession was forcefully wrestled from her on December 20, 2018, the argument of the Claimant is that the 1st Defendant is a contemnor having been ordered to vacate possession and pay mesne profit by the decision of Dada, J. A determination of the argument on the issue of possession will amount to a determination of the main claim of the Claimant.
“Courts have been enjoined not to at this interlocutory stage determine the main claim. Because the issue of the legal right of the 1st Defendant to the possession of the property cannot be determined at this stage, the court will refuse the application of the 1st Defendant.
“However, this court frowns at the conduct of the Claimant in taking of possession of the property in dispute forcefully as alleged by the 1st Defendant although the police as claimed by the Claimant. It is wrong to take possession forcefully and it is also wrong to take possession of the property in dispute through the Police. So whether possession was taken by self-help or awarded to the Claimant by the Police it is wrong as the property possessed is the subject matter of the suit before the court. Consequent of the above, the court hereby order the two sides to this suit to vacate this subject matter property of the suit, the property shall remain vacant till otherwise determined by the Court.”
But in a document— History behind Ascon Oil Company Limited vs Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc — sent to the police, Ascon stated, among other things, that: “Mobil had a lease with the family from 1980 to 2000 which was extended for another 10 years, from 2000 to 2010, without option of renewal, this lease elapsed by effluxion of time on August 31, 2010.
“Towards the end of 2010, the Administrators of late Chief Sunday Ogunyade subsequently entered into a 10 (ten) year lease agreement over the property with Ascon Oil Company Limited and shortly thereafter sold out rightly the Property to Ascon Oil Company Limited. The title of Ascon Oil over the Property is fully perfected and not in dispute.
“Recently, some men came to our office and told our Group Managing Director that Mobil wants to sell the petrol station to them and inquired to know our interest on the property. We were greatly alarmed by this information and this is part of Mobil’s design to permanently dispossess us of our property. Due to these reasons, we were constrained to peacefully go to the filling station to show our presence. Mobil didn’t object to our presence at the property, because they know we are the owners of the petrol filling station.”