By Dapo Akinrefon
A Magistrate Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, struck out in its entirety, the criminal charges earlier preferred against the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited, NLNG, its former Managing Director, Mr Tony Attah and General Counsel, Mr Akachukwu Nwokedi.
The Chief Magistrate, Blessing Vick-Jumbo, agreed with the defendants that the complaint failed to satisfy Section 89(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Rivers State, which stipulated that there had to first be a police investigation before the court could deal with private prosecution and consequently truck out the charges.
An indigenous vendor of Nigeria LNG Ltd, Macobarb International Ltd and its Managing Director, Mr Ogboru Shedrack, had initiated criminal proceedings against NLNG and its aforementioned officers through private prosecution, alleging the offence of obtaining by false pretense against the three.
NLNG and its staff had filed an objection to the suit on the ground that a statutory condition precedent to private prosecution under Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Rivers State had not been satisfied and that the suit was statute barred under the Law. It was also contended that the elements of obtaining by false pretense did not exist in the charges.
NLNG had based on its commitment to promoting local content in Nigeria, awarded to Macobarb, a contract valued at N95,479,057.86, to be completed within a duration of 18 (eighteen) months in January 2014.
Unfortunately, the vendor failed to meet the terms of the contract executed by the parties, including procuring a Performance Bond and performing its obligations under the contract. But NLNG claimed it was constrained to terminate the contract after extending periods of grace to the vendor.
After it terminated the contract, Macorbarb wrote several petitions against NLNG to theSenate Committee on Gas; House of Representative Committee on Public Petitions; House of Representative Committee on Local Content; Rivers State House of Assembly;Independent Corrupt Practices Commission; Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice; Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
NLNG had, however, contended that in all its petitions to the various authorities, Macobarb never accused it of obtaining by false pretence or any crime. Rather, the petitions pleaded for payments of monies due to it.
In one of such petitions addressed to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami, and dated 24th January 2018, Macobarb stated that, “NLNG, inexplicably and through a staff, the head of project support services without justification, executed series of consecutive payment denials on its contract for works Macobarb performed and demanded payments. NLNG failed to pay Macobarb for work done on contracted as deliberately orchestrated.”