By Innocent Anaba
A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday, dismissed the suit by the Federal Government against the Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited over alleged under-declared crude oil export.
The court also dismissed a similar suit against Brasoil, seeking to recover the sum of $4.8million in missing oil revenue.
Meanwhile, shortly after the judgments, the Federal Government headed to the Court of Appeal, where it lodged an appealed against he judgments, which dismissed the $ 55 million debt recovery suit it filed against Agip and Brasoil, over alleged undeclared oil revenue.
The Federal Government had claimed the sum of $110 million from the respondent for allegedly under-declaring the volume of crude oil it shipped out of the country between January 2011 and December2014, adding that by the alleged act, Agip short-changed it (FG) to the tune of $55 million.
The Federal Government prayed the court to compel Agip to pay $55million with an annual interest of 21 per cent, as well as $55million as exemplary damages.
But, Agip denied the allegations and urged the court to dismiss the suit.
Delivering judgment in the suit, trial judge, Justice Cecilia Olatoregun said, “The burden of proof starts with the plaintiff and keeps shifting until all the required evidence is placed before the court. Exhibit DA 10 shows that MT Cosmos was nominated to ship 949,096 barrels of crude oil and exhibit DC 10 from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, shows the barrel of crude oil as 949,096 barrels from MT Cosmos.
“The plaintiff cited the same bill of lading number, but I have no reason to suggest that the bill of lading covers the excess 500,000 barrels of crude oil. While I do not have any evidence to suggest that it is impossible for the defendant to carry undeclared crude oil from Nigeria, I have no evidence to show that MT Cosmos carried the excess 500,000 barrels of crude oil with same bill of lading.
“It is trite law that whoever asserts, must prove that the facts exists, no amount of brilliant address can make up for a lack of evidence. The plaintiff failed to make out a case that 500,000 barrels of crude oil was offloaded in Pennsylvania (US). The case of the plaintiff fails on the lack of proof on the preponderance of evidence.
“At this stage, I do not find it necessary to proceed with the evaluation of the other reliefs. I, therefore, proceed to make an order dismissing this suit; it is hereby dismissed,” the court held.
During trial, the plaintiff only called one witness and tendered three exhibits, while the defendant also called one witness and tendered 12 exhibits.
Similar lawsuits against Total E&P Nigeria Plc and Chevron Nigeria Limited are pending before the court.