By Ossom Raphael
Abuja – Firms operating in the oil and gas sector are seeking Court intervention over alledge attempt by Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) to regulates oil and gas operations in Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ).
The firms, Nigerdock Nigeria Plc, Simco Freezone Company and Nigerdock Nigeria Plc-FZE, described the plans by OGFZA to assume total control of the space as contemptuous
The affected companies had in 2016 dragged OGFZA before a Federal High Court in Lagos to seek judicial intervention that would prevent the Authority from regulating operations within SIIFZ.
Other defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Speaking on the case, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Qudos Mumumey, who said the last time the suit came up in the court, presided by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, was February 26, disclosed that 1st June has been fixed for definite hearing.
The plentiff’s counsel, worried that while the case is still be the court, the OGFZA went ahead to issue letters on implementing ministerial directives that empowered the Authority to assume full regulatory powers over the zones.
Mumumey, said OGFZA by issuing such letters acted upon an uninformed directive of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that the move was a clear attempt to undermine the powers of the court.
“In the light of the foregoing, the current letter from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is contemptuous, abusive, oppressive and a clear attempt to undermine the authority of the Honorable Court”, Mumumey said.
Recall that Nigerdock and others had by an Originating Summons filed at the Federal High Court in 2016 seek to know whether by the clear provisions of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act, Cap No. 107, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ) should be regulated by the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) being the Authority vested with the power to regulate all Export Processing Zones.
They further seek court determination on whether or not the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, by the Provision of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act Cap 05, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, is empowered to regulate the Onne/Ikpokiri Export Free Zone and by extension regulate other Oil and Gas Export Free Zones in Nigeria, among others.
The plaintiff averred that if the answers to the above questions were in the affirmative, the court should not hesitate in granting a declaration that the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) is responsible for the administration and regulation of the Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ).
They also are seeking the declaration that the first defendant is responsible for the administration and regulation of the Onne/Ikpokiri Export Free Zone and Oil and Gas Export Free Zones in Nigeria.
The suit further seeks a declaration that the letter from the Attorney General of the Federation dated March 25, 2008, merely reinstated the provisions of the NEPZA and OGFZA Acts.
The plaintiff, therefore, went ahead seeking an order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants their privies, agents, and servants from projecting itself as the Authority with the statutory powers and authority to license and regulate the operations and activities in Snake Island Integrated Free Zone.
They also asked fora Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants their privies, agents, and servants from interfering with, obstructing and/or disturbing the activities of SIMCO Free Zone Company from the Management of the Snake Island Free Zone pending the determination of the case.