14th October, 2010
An oil company, Addax Petroleum Development Company, has failed in its bid to persuade aÂ Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to discharge or set aside the order to freeze itsÂ bank accounts.
Sometimes in July this year, the court restrained the company, its directors andÂ managers, from withdrawing from its accounts domiciled in five different banks to theÂ limit of $15,840,000, being the amount it is alleged to be owing another company,Â Peacegate Oil and Gas Limited.
The order is to be in force pending the final determination of the suit filed before theÂ court by Peacegate Oil and Gas Company.
In an affidavit sworn to by the manager of the applicant, Aletor Uhomoabi and filedÂ before the court by Barrister Ade Oyebanji, the deponent averred that sometimes inÂ October 2008, Addax Petroleum offered it a contract for hire of security vessel, SESI,Â which it accepted.
The effective date of offer was from 29 October, 2008 and valid for a period of 90 days.Â The respondent agreed to reimburse the applicant for work performed during the validityÂ days as stated in the letter of offer and pursuant to the agreement between the twoÂ parties, Peacegate delivered three vessels to the respondent at its site in Calabar.
The respondent merely paid the cost of mobilisation of two out of the three vessels andÂ refused to pay the agreed contract sum till date.
In addition, the three vessels are in the custody of the respondent and has notÂ demobilised them till date.
Consequently, the applicant urged the court to grant its application by restraining theÂ respondents from depleting or withdrawing from its accounts in about four banks andÂ transfer such money abroad without any hope or remedy to it.
Justice Okon Abang, after listening to the argument of Barrister Oyebanji, granted theÂ application.
However, Addax Petroleum Development Limited filed an application before the court,Â urging it to de-freeze its accounts on the ground that the order was overreaching andÂ engendering a total disruption and paralysis of its business.
The company also claimed that Peacegate did not make full disclosure of facts to theÂ court before the order was granted as only one vessel was supplied to it instead of threeÂ as claimed as the other two were supplied to a third party, Addax Petroleum CorporationÂ (Nigeria) Limited, that is not a party before the court and that the $15 million claim isÂ based on charges arising from the supply of the three vessels.
However, in his own argument, Barrister Oyebanji told the court that in an application ofÂ this nature, the applicant needs not prove all the facts that will entitle him to itsÂ claim before an arbiter tribunal and that it is sufficient to show dispute or has a claimÂ before the tribunal and the need to preserve the rest from being extinguished.
Oyebanji contended that the material fact was put before the court that Addax PetroleumÂ has been acquired by foreign company called Sinopec Limited and that the company may windÂ up its operation in Nigeria or transfer the companyâ€™s funds from the country.Â Consequently, the above facts show real urgency which warranted the grant of injunctionÂ by the court to protect the subject matter pending before the Arbitration Tribunal.
The presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang, in his ruling, said Addaxâ€™s motion for aÂ discharge of the order of the court lacked merit and accordingly dismissed it with a costÂ of N10,000 in favour of Peacegate.
Justice Abang further said in the course of the argument, the court suggested that theÂ respondent should provide a bank guarantee to meet the applicantâ€™s claim so as toÂ discharge the courtâ€™s order to enable the respondent operate its accounts but rebuffedÂ courtâ€™s offer and insisted on having his way, not minding whether the applicant has aÂ right that should be protected.