By Codratus Godson
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) has filed an appeal against the ruling of a Port Harcourt High Court ruling in favour of their long-drawn opponent, Macobarb International Limited.
Macobarb is a contractor who once got positive ratings from the NLNG and was promoted. The first job he got in 2014 after the upgrade landed in crisis and now is subject of litigations and many petitions around government institutions in Nigeria because of alleged payment denials, frustration, contract cancellation, etc.
The appeal case is at the Court of Appeal with number A/PH/16xx/2023. It is an appeal against a civil suit number PHC/2013/CS/2022).
The NLNG team of lawyers filed the appeal late and asked for extension of time from the Appeal Court to appeal (despite having over seven lawyers working on the case).
The NLNG’s grounds of appeal are that the Macobarb Suit (PHC/2013/CS/2022) was status barred because, according to them, it lapsed more than five years before suit was filed. They also contended that the managing director/CEO of Macobarb should not be a party to the case.
They challenged the N200,000 awarded against them.
They did not accept the ruling of Justice C Nwogu of State High Court 18 on Monday December 19, 2022, that the NLNG wasted the court’s time by filing those objections.
The judge said the case was clearly filed within time in 2019 despite it being initially struck out. The court also ruled that the CEO, Shedrack Ogboru, was a proper person to be part of the case, being an injured party.
The court slammed the N200,000 award on the NLNG, saying citizens have the right under Nigerian laws to press for claims if they felt aggrieved and injured.
The judge took judicial notice of the criminal proceedings that had subsisted in the matter at a lower court and commented on the issue of criminality allegedly committed by the NLNG as imported into the civil suit by the NLNG lawyers. The judge ruled thus: “Though parties in their written addresses did not specifically address the court in the issue of fraud as a bar to the status limitation law, this is an issue of law which the court can raise suo motu without calling on parties to address the court on same.
“The claimants have also pleaded fraud in their statement of claim. The Court has the power to look at its file and make of its content even if evidence is not led to it.
“From the foregoing, I am satisfied and hold that this suit is not caught up by the status of limitation law as argued by the NLNG.”
Crux of the matter:
Macobarb International Limited, a local contractor, dragged the NLNG to court claiming over N1Bn for alleged breaches to a contract (B130142PPI, Access Control) in the NLNG plant area with three years duration. The suit said the contract provided that Macobarb be paid bit by bit progressively based on the value of verified work done.
Macobarb in its claims said the contract also forbade delay of any kind in the project and provided for penalty on whoever caused the delay. It also provided for alert system should anything want to cause a delay. Macobarb said it activated the alert clauses when payment delays began to happen but that nothing was done to rectify the delays until the contract was terminated.
In his reaction, Ogboru (the CEO of Macobarb) said each time he went from place to place to resolve the matter amicably as was provided for in the contract terms, that the NLNG had always urged him to go to court if he felt he had been unjustly treated.
He said he is surprised that they now keep running to appeal instead of coming to the same court to state how right they were. They only ask courts to strike out the case without being ready to address the case on merit and show the court how they paid Macobarb and what they paid for.”