Nathan Tamarapreye, Yenagoa
The long-drawn struggle by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to stop the hearing of the substantive matter in the case filed by Macobarb International Limited, a contractor, hit a brick wall on Wednesday, as a High Court discarded their motion to stop proceedings.
Macobarb had filed a civil suit claiming over one billion naira for losses incurred in a contract of 2014, in Suit No. PHC/2013/CS/2022.
The NLNG filed a motion that the case was filed out of time and that the CEO was not to be a party.
Justice Chinwendu Nwogu ruled that the case was competent and awarded N200,000 cost against the NLNG for wasting the court’s time.
NLNG filed an appeal at the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt but brought a motion to stop any hearing at the High Court pending the outcome of the appeal. Macobarb countered it and the judge fixed June 20, 2023, for the ruling.
Chief Chukwuemeka Akwuroha led the team from the NLNG while Barr Joshua Ene (represented Barr Morrison Uzoma) for Macobarb for the ruling.
Justice Nwogu took time to show why technicalities and motions should not be allowed to stall substantive matters by seekers of justice.
The judge in the ruling today discountenanced the NLNG motion on the ground that the interlocutory ruling which led to the interlocutory appeal should be appealed together with the substantive ruling when it will come. The ruling is that an interlocutory appeal should not stop hearing in the substantive matter, but that such appeals should wait till final judgment so all appeals can go at once.
The Judge gave this ruling based on Supreme Court positions on several cases especially the one on Amadi vs NNPC, saying what happened in that case is similar to this and that the suit lingered for 13 years in the Court of Appeal before coming back. He said allowing this kind of motion would definitely lead to the same outcome.
So, for the interest of justice and to serve the interest of both parties, the Judge had to discountenance the motion.
He urged both parties to proceed with the hearing and any party that eventually disagreed with the eventual judgment and/or on any interlocutory ruling along the way can join all objections and file one appeal.
By this, the hearing is to go on contrary to NLNG’s wish and this has been fixed for July 19, 2023.
The MD of Macobarb, Shedrack Ogboru, reacting to the development, rejoiced over the fact that at last, he would have a chance to place the facts of the matter in a court of competent jurisdiction since 2014 when the contract was awarded.
“This is a landmark ruling for Macobarb for the interest of justice.”
He said the hearing has been made difficult by the other party in the matter. He said the saga has a criminal component and a fundamental right filed at the Federal High Court against NLNG as well as the current case. He said everything is being done to ensure these proceedings do not happen in open court.
“I executed the job, borrowed money from banks, but each time it was time to pay me, four signatories would sign but one would decline signature, and I would not be paid. This went on for years. This is what some people don’t want the court to hear. As God would want it, the Judge ruled that this case be heard.
“As I hear, the Supreme Court has frowned at how counsels use interlocutory motions to stop substantive cases from being delayed indefinitely.”