A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday dismissed a $55million debt recovery suit filed by the Federal Government of Nigeria against Agip Oil Company Limited.
In her judgment, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun held that the Federal Government failed to furnish the court with sufficient evidence in proof of the case.
The suit which was filed since 2016 is one among several other suits by the FG, seeking to recover almost $12 billion in missing crude oil revenue from some international oil companies.
Specifically, the FG accused Agip of under-declaring the volume of crude oil it shipped out of the country between January 2011 and December 2014.
The government claims that Agip short-changed it to the tune of $55million.
The government also asked the court to compel the oil firm to pay the said sum, with an annual interest rate of 21 percent.
During trial, the FG called one prosecution witness and tendered three exhibits before the court, while the defendant, Agip Oil also called one witness and tendered 12 exhibits.
In Nov 2018, parties closed their cases and final addresses were adopted on February 21, 2019, after which the court reserved judgment until today.
Delivering judgment today, Justice Olatoregun said the issue for determination was whether the Federal Government succeeded in proving its case to entitle it to a grant of the reliefs sought.
In answer, the court held that it is trite and settled law, that he who asserts must prove, adding that although allegations were made, the FG failed to establish same on a preponderance of evidence.
“The burden of proof starts with the plaintiff and keeps shifting until all the required evidence is placed before the court.
“While I do not have any evidence to suggest that it is impossible for the defendant to carry undeclared crude oil from Nigeria, i have no evidence to show that MT Cosmos (nominated to ship the crude oil) carried excess 500,000 barrels of crude oil with same bill of lading,” she held
“The plaintiff failed to make out a case that 500,000 barrels of crude oil was offloaded in Pennsylvania; the case of the plaintiff fails on the lack of proof on the preponderance of evidence.
“At this stage, I do not find it neccessary to proceed with the evaluation of the other reliefs.
“I, therefore, proceed to make an order dismissing this suit; it is hereby dismissed,” the court held.
The court also dismissed a similar suit filed by the FG against Brasoil, seeking to recover the sum of $4.8million in missing oil revenue.
Similar suits by the FG are also pending against Chevron Nigeria Limited, Chevron Petroleum Nigeria Limited, Shell Western Supply and Trading Limited among others
The Federal Government had also sued Total E&P Nigeria Plc, alleging that the oil company under-declared the volume of crude oil it shipped out of the country between January 2011 and December 2014.
The Federal Government accused the oil company of short-changing it to the tune of $245 million, by allegedly shipping several barrels of crude oil out of Nigeria, without making due remittance.