By Tunde Opeseitan – Snr Correspondent, Lagos
An oil firm, Shell Nigeria Gas Limited, has urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to declare that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is not empowered to collect debt on behalf of anyone.
It said the commission made it to pay $1.2million (about 239million) to a firm which Shell claims it was not indebted to after EFCC allegedly threatened to arrest and detain its directors.
The plaintiff is praying the court to hold that EFCC is not vested with judicial powers under Section 6 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution and therefore cannot act like a court.
Shell filed three suits against EFCC claiming similar reliefs. In one of the suits in which Dec Oil and Gas Limited is the second defendant, Shell said it signed contract on March 29, 2000 with Dec for the construction of a Gas Distribution Pipeline at Agbara/Ota.
However, Shell later terminated the contract in December 2001, following which Dec claimed that Shell was indebted to it and sued.
The Federal High Court entered judgment in Dec’s favour, but Shell appealed against it.
According to Shell, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment, but Dec appealed to the Supreme Court.
While the suit was pending, EFCC invited Shell with a view to determining “the civil contractual rights and obligations between the plaintiff (Shell) and the second defendant (Dec).”
Shell said even though it drew EFCC’s attention to a pending court case, the commission “vehemently insisted, under threat of arrest and detention of officers of the plaintiff, that it must determine the civil contractual liability of the plaintiff…”
The plaintiff said EFCC later found it “liable”, and Shell was made to pay $1.2miliion.
“The plaintiff was not indebted to the second defendant in respect of the contract,” Shell insisted.
It added: “The plaintiff brought this action when the actions of the first defendant (EFCC) in collusion with the second defendant became unbearable.”
But the EFCC and the second defendant denied the claims. The commission said: “EFCC was and is investigating alleged diversion of loans and advances made against the second defendant by some of its creditor-banks…”
It added that a bank petitioned the commission and listed Dec as one of the customers who allegedly might have diverted loans and advances to frivolous projects not related to the original transactions entered into.
Source : Independent