Nigerian Court Pauses Rig Dispute Hearing Due to Filing Errors - Africa’s premier report on the oil, gas and energy landscape.

Nigerian Court Pauses Rig Dispute Hearing Due to Filing Errors

By Lukman Aboolade, Senior Correspondent

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos could not continue the hearing on the legal dispute between General Hydrocarbons Limited (GHL) and Dolphin Drillings due to incomplete filing from the latter.

The Judge, Akintayo Aluko, had granted an ex-parte motion filed by GHL that restrained Dolphin Drillings from various actions regarding the Rig – Noble Blackford Dolphin, pending the determination of a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

The Noble Blackford Dolphin owned by Dolphin Drillings is drilling in the Oyo Field Complex on Oil Mining License (OMLs) 120 & 121 for GHL.

The interim injunction, granted on Wednesday, 8th May, 2024, prohibits the respondents, their agents, servants, or anyone acting on their behalf, from removing, demobilizing, or decommissioning the Rig – Noble Blackford Dolphin from GHL’s field. Additionally, it restrains interference with GHL’s rights under the contract for the use of the rig, along with the respondents’ personnel involved in drilling operations on fields EWO-2 and OYO-8.

Although the court declined a relief from GHL, which pertained to a mandatory interim injunction directing the respondents to continue fulfilling contractual obligations, it granted leave to GHL to serve the second respondent through Frank Fenton, the Rig Manager of Blackford Dolphin Rig, located within the jurisdiction of the court, either personally or via email. The court also mandated GHL to file a formal undertaking as to damages, to indemnify the respondents in case the order was deemed improper.

During the resumption of the hearing on Tuesday, the counsel representing GHL, Olasupo Shasore (SAN), told the court that although the respondents served a motion to discharge, only 6 out of 12 pages referenced in the motion was sent. He added that he did not receive the remainder of the copies until Tuesday, the adjourned date for hearing, which made it impossible for the respondent to file a response.

Counsel to the respondents, Olusina Shofola, told the court that it was an error in the rush to file the motion and apologized to the Court. Justice Aluko adjourned the Court to Monday 20th May, 2024, to allow GHL file a response to the motion to discharge.

However, the Judge also fixed Wednesday 15th May, to deliberate and decide upon the appointment of a sole arbitrator for the dispute among the parties.

Earlier in March, Dolphin Drillings and GHL reached an agreement regarding past-due payments and the remaining work under the drilling contract for the rig, which was initially supposed to run until the end of March. However, payment disagreements extended it, having received two instalment payments in 2024, while the next payment was due by late April 2024. Due to a failure to meet the next payment date, Dolphin Drillings announced the termination of its contract with GHL.

“The terms for payment under the agreement with GHL have not been met, and the Company therefore confirms that it has, in accordance with the agreement, today issued a notice of termination to GHL. The Company will now prepare the Blackford Dolphin for transit to India in the near term and intends to pursue the recovery of sums remaining due by GHL. Any further information will be provided in due course,” the company said. The termination prompted GHL to approach the court for an injunction and to appoint a general arbitrator.

The hearing on the motion on Notice is set to commence on Monday 20th May, 2024.

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