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SEPLAT PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY LIMITED v. BRITTANIA-U NIGERIA LIMITED & ORS

(2018) LPELR-43522(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Friday, the 19th day of January, 2018

CA/L/495/16


Before Their Lordships

MOJEED ADEKUNLE OWOADE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

HAMMA AKAWU BARKA Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

BOLOUKUROMO MOSES UGO Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

SEPLAT PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY LTD - Appellant(s)

AND

1. BRITTANIA-U NIGERIA LIMITED
2. CHEVRON NIG. LTD
3. CHEVRON U.S.A. INC.
4. BNP PARIBAS SECURITIES CORPORATION
5. MR. HERMANT PARTEL - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Jurisdiction of the Federal High Court over simple Contracts.

FACTS:
This appeal is against the ruling of Yunusa J. of the Federal High Court, sitting at Lagos, delivered on the 13th May 2014.

The ruling was in respect of several applications filed by all the defendants in suit No.FHC/L/CS/1171 challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to entertain the suit of 1st respondent (Brittania-U Nigeria Limited) because, according to the objectors, the dispute arose from a simple contract which the Federal High Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and that the suit disclosed no reasonable cause of action. In addition, appellant who was sued as the 5th defendant sought an order in the alternative that its name be struck out because it had been improperly joined to the suit.

The case of the 1st respondent is that, sometime in 2013 she participated in a bid process undertaken by the 2nd respondent for the sale of its interests in three oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 52, 53 and 55. She averred that, following the bid round and meetings held between her and 2nd & 3rd respondents on the 14th of November 2013 where requirements were reviewed by the 2nd, 3rd & 4th respondents and further presentations made by the 1st respondent's bankers, there was an acceptance of her final bid offer by the vendors and so a contract exists between her and 2nd respondent for the acquisition of 2nd respondent's 40% interest in the said Oil Mineral Leases yet 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents refused to declare her the winner and execute with her a Sale and Purchase Agreement.

As regards appellant, 1st respondent further averred that it was granted unfair, unjust and unauthorized access to her bid documents, her financial mode land analysis in breach of a Confidentiality Agreement signed by the Parties.

She thus approached the Federal High Court for that Court to declare that there was already existing between her and 2nd and 4th respondents a binding contract for the transfer of oil Mineral Leases 52, 53 and 55; that the Court order specific performance of that binding contract, award exemplary damages for breach of contract, among other reliefs.

All the defendants including appellant raised preliminary objections at the hearing of the matter.

After hearing counsel on the motions, the learned trial judge. Yunusa J, gave a composite ruling on the 13th day of May, 2014 dismissing all the objections. His Lordship held that the Federal High Court has original jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other Court to hear and determine the dispute in the suit because it is connected to mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas under Section 251(1) of the Constitution which confers exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court; involved the administration or management and control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies namely NNPC; that 1st respondent's claim disclosed a reasonable cause of action. and that the suit involved interpretation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which was the exclusive preserve of the Federal High Court.

The Appellant was dissatisfied with the ruling and lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES:
The Court adopted the issues as formulated by the Appellant thus:
1. Whether the Federal High Court was right in its finding that it had jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
2. Whether the Federal High Court was right in its finding that 1st respondent's claims disclosed a reasonable cause of action.


DECISION/HELD:
In the final analysis, the Court of Appeal held that the appeal was allowed, the ruling of Yunusa J. of 13/05/2014 in suit No. FHC/L/CS/1171/2013 was set aside and substituted with an order striking out that suit from the Federal High Court.


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