Court declines Mobil’s plea for an order stopping NMDPRA’s sanction

Abuja, June 28, 2023: The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, refused to grant Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited’s prayer for an order restraining the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) from imposing any sanction on it.

The sanction in respect of its operations in Oil Mining Leases 67,68,70 and 104 pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling on the motion ex-parte moved by counsel to Mobil, Ituah Imhanze, rather ordered the plaintiff to put NMDPRA, the sole defendant in the suit, on notice.

Justice Ekwo, who directed the NMDPRA to show cause on the next adjourned date why Mobil’s prayers ought not to be granted, also ordered the plaintiff to serve the defendant with all the processes in the matter.

The judge adjourned the matter until July 5 for hearing.

The oil giant, had, in the ex-parte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/844/2023,  sued NMDPRA.

In the motion dated June 16 and filed June 19 by its lawyer, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, Mobil prayed for two orders.

Giving seven grounds why its motion should be granted, the lawyer argued that the company is the operator of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd}/ MPN Joint Venture in OMLs 67, 68, 70 and 104 and its field facilities and operating facilities are interconnected by a network of pipelines with high degree of dependency and integration.

Ajogwu argued that the Petroleum Industry Act by virtue of Section 8 (d) and 318 provided that the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission should consider and be in charge of integrated operations and should consider integrated operations as upstream operations and grant relevant approvals in that regard.

He said that Mobile made an official application to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission for consideration as an integrated operation via a letter dated Dec. 6, 2022.

“The application was considered and approved by the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, the only statutorily appropriate authority and the approval communicated to the plaintiff/applicant via a letter dated Feb. 2, 2023,” he said.

Ajogwu, however, said that the NMDPRA, sought to nullify the approval granted by the commission, claiming oversight functions over aspects of the Mobil’s integrated operations which the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, by its letter of Feb. 2, had already claimed oversight authority and granted approval on.

The senior lawyer alleged that NMDPRA further threatened to sanction the oil company, its chairman and managing director and any other officer for any contravention of its directives or regulations.

He further alleged that a conflict had thereby ensued from the regulatory bodies claiming oversight over integrated petroleum operations which Mobil currently operates.

Ajogwu, who accused NMDPRA of ramping up pressure on his client to comply with its directives and submit to its regulatory authority, also alleged that the defendant had further made damning allegations of economic sabotage and crude oil theft against Mobil.

He prayed the court to grant their reliefs to ensure that Mobil’s “operations are not jeopardised by heavy and unlawful sanctions, and reputational damage by the defendant.”