⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Chevron Nigeria Limited v. Imo State House of Assembly & Ors (2016) – CA
1. Chevron Nigeria Limited
1. Imo State House Of Assembly
2. The Speaker, Imo State House Assembly
3. The Attorney-General Of Imo State
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Ignatius Igwe Agube, J.C.A.
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Mrs. Miannaya A. Essien, SAN
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– N.N. Ekedebe (Mrs.)
The 1st respondent invited the appellant to its’ house via summons to answer to the allegations of the Oguta Farmers Association claiming damages against the Appellant for damage done to their neighbourhood.
The Appellant then filed an originating summons at the Federal High Court to quash the decision and proceedings taken by the Imo State House of Assembly, and label it unconstitutional.
The trial Federal High Court gave judgement in favour of the respondents; hence, the Appellant being dissatisfied has appealed to this Court.
1. Whether under and by virtue of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the 1st Respondent has the legal right and power to act in a judicial capacity by finding the Appellant liable for alleged damages, determining and awarding compensation to the Oguta Farmers Association for alleged damages and or alleged injuries arising from the oil mining and oil exploration activities of the Appellant?
2. Whether the 1st Respondent’s Constitutional duties and powers to investigate and to issue summons extends to investigations for the purpose of determining and or apportioning compensation for alleged damages or injuries done by the Appellant?
3. Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right when he deemed the 3rd Respondent as having appeared for himself and the other Respondents?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1 & 2: These issues (1 & 2) were resolved in favour of the Appellant.
i. It is clear that only the National Assembly has power to legislate on mines and minerals, oil fields and oil mining and any matter incidental or supplementary to any matter or item mentioned in the Exclusive List. Therefore any fallout from the activities of the Appellant in the course of mining or exploring oil should be within the exclusive preserve of the National Assembly to wade into it.
ii. As we have seen and pronounced earlier on, oil mining and exploration are listed as Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List and by virtue of Item 68 thereof, damages caused farmers either by way of the destruction of their economic or food crops and/or their buildings in the course of the oil mining and exploration activities are incidental or supplementary to the matters mentioned in Item 39 of the List and accordingly, it is only the National Assembly that has the legislative competence by virtue of Sections 4(2), (3), (4) and (5) of the said Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) as well as Sections 88 and 89 thereof to make laws touching on the subject-matter and indeed to direct an inquiry or investigation into the alleged damage done to the Oguta Local Government Farmers Association assuming the National Assembly initiated a Bill to that effect.
iii. The Legislature had no business to veer into the sphere of influence exclusive to the Court as Constitutionally guaranteed without breaching the concept of separation of powers as equally guaranteed by the Constitution. By usurping the powers of the Courts when the 1st Respondent in this case proceeded to adjudicate on the petition and awarded compensation/damages against the Appellant the 1st Respondent breached the Constitution and accordingly whatever action it took was a nullity and ought to be set aside as such a body was not a Court constituted in a manner that would ensure its independence and impartiality notwithstanding the fact that it (the Legislature) by Section 129 of the Constitution has been conferred with judicial powers assuming it acted in accordance with the dictates of Section 168 of the Constitution, which is not the case herein.
3. Issue 3 was resolved against the Appellant.
i. If we go by the underlined portion of the Judgment then I cannot see the need for Ground 10 of the Notice of Appeal as the Learned Trial Judge had conceded that the appearance of the Learned Counsel did not cover the 1st and 2nd Respondents.
ii. From the above authorities and not withstanding that the Attorney-General who was represented by the Learned State Counsel did not state in any of the processes filed and even in his announcement of appearance in Court during hearing, the suit as rightly submitted, was defended by the Learned Counsel on behalf of the 1st and 2nd Respondents.
iii. However, in the peculiar circumstances of this case where the Learned Attorney General was sued and he has filed processes in defence of the 1st and 2nd Respondents who are the second Arm of Government and her Principal Officer, the regularization was in tandem with public interest and overall interest of justice.
Section 6 of CFRN 1999;
Section 1 of CFRN 1999;
Section 4(6) & (7) of CFRN 1999;
Part 1 & 2 of the Second Schedule of the legislative list;
Section 128 & 129 of the CFRN 1999;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Section 11(5) (a) – (c) of the Oil Pipelines Act, CAP. 07 LFN, 2004 stipulates that:
“5. The holder of a licence shall pay compensation- (a) To any person whose land or interest in land whether or not it is land in respect of which license has been granted, is injuriously affected by the exercise of the right conferred by the licence, for any such injurious affection not otherwise made good;
and (b) To any person suffering damage by reason of any neglect on the part of the holder or his agents, servants or workmen to protect, maintain or repair any work structure or thing executed under the licence, for any such damage not otherwise made good, and
(c) To any person suffering damage (other than on account of his own default or on account of the malicious act of a third person) as a consequence of any breakage of or leakage from pipeline or an ancillary installation, for any such damage not otherwise made good, and if the amount of such compensation is not agreed between any such person and holder, it shall be fixed by a Court in accordance with Part IV of this Act.”
Part IV of the Act provides specifically under Section 19 thereof that:
“If there be any dispute as to whether any compensation is payable under any provision of this Act or if so as to the amount thereof, or as the persons to whom such compensation should be paid, such a dispute shall be determined by a Magistrate exercising Civil Jurisdiction in the area concerned if such Magistrate has in respect of any other civil matter the monetary jurisdiction of at least as much as the amount of compensation claimed, and if there be no such Magistrate, by the High Court exercising jurisdiction in the area concerned and, notwithstanding the provisions of any other Act or Law, in respect of the decision of a Magistrate in accordance with this Section there shall be an appeal to the High Court of a State and in respect of a decision of the High Court of the State under this Section whether original or appellate, there shall be appeal to the Court of Appeal.”
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
There is no doubt that a Court of Law (be it of first instance or appellate), can formulate issues suo motu but such issues must emanate from the Grounds of Appeal or totality of the facts of the case before it and where for instance this case was fought on pleadings. – Agube, J.C.A. Chevron v. Imo State House of Assembly (2016)
The rationale in so holding is that as earlier stated, the State House of Assembly can only exercise oversight function of investigating or inquiring into any matter within its legislative competence and can only exercise such powers for purposes of making a law correcting some mistakes in an existing law or exposing corruption inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws enacted within the 1st Respondent’s Legislative competence and in the disbursement of funds appropriated or to be appropriated by the 1st Respondent. – Agube, J.C.A. Chevron v. Imo State House of Assembly (2016)
By the Pipelines Oil Act and Section 6(1)(2) and (6)(a) and (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Courts are the Organs of the State vested with the power to adjudicate on disputes emanating from the activities of Oil Miners and Explorers as well as Oil Pipeline Licensees and victims of damage incidental to such activities (as in this case where the Oguta Local Government Farmers Association are claiming compensation for damage caused their food and economic crops and their building in the Appellant’s Area of Operation); the Petitioner/Farmers Association ought to have approached the High Court as the Appellant had done rather than run to the 1st and 2nd Respondents who have/had no such powers of adjudication and with due deference to the 1st and 2nd Respondents, they ought to have directed the petitioners to the appropriate organ of State to handle their dispute; rather than hide under the cloak of their Legislative Power over Agricultural and Industrial development, to usurp the Constitutional powers of the Judiciary. – Agube, J.C.A. Chevron v. Imo State House of Assembly (2016)