In their haste to deny PREMIUM TIMES’ report of a shady out-of-court settlement that may cost Nigeria N549 billion in royalty and taxes, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, and Addax Petroleum have issued two contradictory statements that in fact confirm our story that the reported negotiation actually took place.
Our investigation had revealed that Mr. Adoke, despite being listed as a defendant in the suit over disagreement in the calculation of royalty and taxes due to the government from the Production Sharing Contract of OMLs 123, 124, 126 and 137 with Addax, the AGF showed no interest in the case nor submitted a defence.
But as the court was about to give a ruling on the case, he began putting pressure on lawyers of other government agencies involved in the case to reach an out-of-court settlement with the oil firm.
This move, we learnt, angered the lawyers who believed they have a good case and that the court should be allowed to make a pronouncement on the matter.
While Addax explicitly admitted that that an out-of-court settlement is currently being pursued, Mr. Adoke was evasive, saying no such arrangement was yet in place.
“Addax is ready for a peaceful settlement but is not desperate to settle out of court,” said Kayode Tokunbo, counsel to Addax, in a statement on Wednesday.
“We are ready to prosecute the case to its logical conclusion. But it will be very expensive for whoever loses and found to be in breach at the end.
“It was this realization that prompted the exploration of the possibility of an out-of-court settlement, an option which, as at now, has not even been consummated.”
Mr Adoke said he was not averse to an out-of-court settlement if there were justifications but added that he could not act unilaterally in such instances.
“While the Attorney General of the Federation is not averse to amicable resolution of any disputes where sufficient justification exists for such closure, it is not in his nature to act unilaterally, especially where the office is a nominal party (as in this case) nor is it in his character to coerce agencies of government to enter into settlements that are likely to compromise national interest or perverse the course of justice,” he said in a statement signed by the Director of Information, Ministry of Justice, Charles Nwodo.
Another point of contradiction in both statement was while Mr Adoke admitted that he did not file a defence in the suit due to the refusal of the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, co-defendants in the suit, to present the necessary documentations and information for him to file a counter-affidavit, counsel for Addax Petroleum, Mr. Tokunbo, curiously, said the AGF presented a defence in a separate statement sent on Wednesday.
“When the originating summons was served on the Attorney General of the Federation, appropriate steps were taken to request the aforementioned agencies to furnish the office with the relevant information and documents necessary to prepare and file a Counter-Affidavit to defend the suit,” said Mr. Adoke.
“That no defence of action has been filed to date is because the DPR and FIRS are yet to accede to the request for the relevant information and supporting documents from the Office of the Attorney General so the insinuation is both baseless and reckless,” he added.
However, Mr Tokunbo, apparently unaware of the AGF admission, put up a spirited defence on behalf of Mr. Adoke, claiming he (Attorney General) filed a defence in the matter.
“We also want to put it on record that all relevant parties were represented in court contrary to the story that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation has no representation in court,” Mr. Tokunbo said. “All parties are dully represented. For the avoidance of doubt, (we received correspondence from) the Director Of Civil Litigation, who represented the Federal Attorney General, Ministry of Petroleum Resources was represented by Tunde Fagbounlu, SAN; Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation was represented by Chief Gaizama, SAN, while Federal Inland Revenue Service was represented by Barr. Mary Okpe.
“Libelling, blackmailing or engaging in the vulgar abuse of the Federal Attorney General will not solve the problem. And it is indeed a shame that common and shady characters are being allowed to dabble into matters of this nature.”
Mr Tokunbo also lied when he claimed that PREMIUM TIMES did not engage Addax for its own side of the story.
After several attempts, including a telephone call to its headquarters in Geneva, at reaching out to Addax to state its side of the story, a spokesperson, Dorothy Adake, sent an email to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday morning with the following words: “Addax petroleum is unable to comment as the matter is the subject of litigation. Rest assured that Addax is a responsible corporate organization which upholds high ethical standards and carries out its business in line with the laws of its host countries.”