NNPC: our case against Ubah, Capital Oil

Managing Director Capital Oil and Gas,Dr Ifeanyi Ubah

The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has denied instigating the Department of State Services to arrest Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas LimitedDr.IfeanyiUbah.

It told the Federal High Court in Lagos that it was not indebted to Ubah nor did it violate his rights.

Ubah is praying the court to order the DSS to release him from detention and to hold that the respondents violated his rights.

Arguing the businessman’s fundamental rights suit before Justice Mohammed Idris, Mrs.IfeomaEsom said the DSS was not a debt collection agency.

“Even if money were owed, it is still not enough reason to arrest and detain the applicant (Ubah). The functions and duties of the State Security Service (SSS) as provided by law does not include the recovery of debts.

“There is no correlation between the facts before my lord and national security,” Esom said.

The DSS arrested Ubah for alleged “economic sabotage” and “illegal sale of petroleum products stored in his tank farm by the NNPC”.

Justice Idris on May 9 ordered the DSS to produce Ubah in court. But the agency obtained an order from a Federal Capital Territory High Court to detain him for 14 days.

Ubah was first arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on March 19 and was released on April 14, following which the DSS arrested him.

In its preliminary objection, DSS prayed for an order striking out the suit for lack of jurisdiction.

It said the applicant’s arrest took place in Abuja and that the alleged infringement of his right did not occur in Lagos.

DSS’ lawyer Peter Okerinmodun said: “We urge the court to dismiss the application because it is a ploy by the applicants to distract the agency in the ongoing investigation.

“This is a case of economic sabotage for which a court in Abuja has ordered that we go on with our investigation. I urge my lord to dismiss the application.”

Defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), EFCC Chairman, EFCC, DSS Director-General, DSS, Inspector-General of Police, NNPC, NNPC Retail Ltd and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

NNPC, in its response, accused Ubah and Capital Oil of not being transparent and of circumventing agreements to overreach it.

NNPC and NNPC Retail (seventh and eight respondents) said thefinancial audits of their accounts and daily products had been scrutinised and investigated by various security agencies.

In order to block leakages, they carried out “stock physicalisation of operators’ storage facilities”.

According to them, it was discovered at the end of the exercise that Ubah and Capital Oil “had converted and/or diverted 84,891,730.00 litres worth N11.5billion without the knowledge and consent of the seventh and eight respondents.”

NNPC said the applicants allegedly failed to return the exact volumes of litres allegedly converted or pay the cash value.

In a supporting affidavit to Ubah’s application, Capital Oil’s Secretary, George Oranuba, said a “throughput agreement” between Capital Oil and NNPC allows for “conversion and diversion of products by ‘operators’ so long as the operator is prepared to re-deliver the products within seven days of demand by the product’s owner or to pay a penalty for non-re-delivery”.

He said the failure to re-deliver was a “mere” breach of contract, which could be remedied by the payment of penalty to the owner, and was not a criminal act for which Ubah should be arrested.

But, NNPC said the “through-put agreement” did not accommodate perpetual conversion or diversion of its products without its knowledge and consent.

The corporation denied owing Capital Oil N10billion, $8million “or any amount at all arising from the transactions” between them.

NNPC and NNPC Retail denied violating Ubah’s rights, saying his arrest and detention by the security agencies was in the course of their normal duties.

They denied instructing DSS to collect debt from Ubah on their behalf and did not force him to sign off any of his assets.

“He (Ubah) knows as a fact that it is part of the statutory mandate of the second to sixth respondents to investigate crime, recover any illegally acquired property and ensure restitution to their lawful owners.

They added that officials of NNPC Retail were also investigated “to ensure that all money due to the Federal Government are accounted for and remitted appropriately without any let or hindrance or the prompting of the seventh and eight respondents.”

Justice Idris adjourned till May 25 for ruling.

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