Magistrates’ Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has reserved ruling in a case of alleged obtaining by false pretence brought against the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), its former Managing Director, Mr. Tony Attah, and General Counsel, Akachukwu Nwokedi, till February 7, 2022.
Arguments commenced at the Magistrate Court, Port Harcourt, before her Lordship, Blessing Vick-Jumbo, in respect of the preliminary objection filed by the NLNG, Attah, and Nwokedi, regarding the criminal summons, issued against them by one of its vendors, Macobarb International Ltd and its Managing Director, Mr. Ogboru Shedrak, as complainants.
The preliminary objection, dated December 8, 2021, was supported with an affidavit and a further affidavit dated 8th and 20th December 2021 respectively.
Arguing the objection in court, Dr. Bayo Adaralegbe submitted that the complaint was based on a contract awarded by NLNG to the vendor, which NLNG terminated due to lack of performance.
The vendor had petitioned no fewer than 10 federal and state government agencies, characterising the dispute between the parties as one of breach of contract.
He submitted that the facts could not have given rise to the offence as obtaining by false pretence under the Criminal Code of Rivers State as alleged by the complaint.
But the counsel for the NLNG argued further that the complaint failed to satisfy Section 89(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Rivers State, which stipulated that there had to first be a police investigation before the court could deal with private prosecution.
He argued further that based on Section 92 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, the complaint was statute barred, having been filed outside the maximum six years permitted by law and urged the court to quash the charge.
Responding, Mr. M. Uzoma, who appeared for the complainants, argued that despite the objection, the court should proceed with prosecution.
An oil services firm, Macobarb International Limited and two others, had dragged the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited and two others – Attah and Nwokedi –before a Rivers State Magistrate Court over an alleged breach of contract.
It read: “Complaint has been made this day by Macobarb International Limited and Ogboru Shedrack, that you, Nigeria LNG Ltd, on the various dates inclusive the month of April, 2018 and December, 2020 and at various fora, inclusive in Bayelsa and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, of the above mentioned Magisterial District did.
“By way of false pretences, fraudulent tricks and misrepresentations ‘which you knew to be false working in conjunction with NIGERIA LNG LTD and Mr. Tony Attah, prompted the complainants to mobilise both equipment and personnel to the contract site at their expense on false representation that they would be paid on ‘work done’ as defined in your contract documents with monetary valuation of ‘work done’ assessed at various sums inclusive that of N32, 079, 723. 10, N33, 588, 401, 76 amongst other monetary sums incurred by the complainants and of which the complainants were tricked and not paid,”
But, an affidavit filed in support of its preliminary objection by Mr. Toochukwu Nwankwo, of the law firm of Babalakin and Co, on behalf of the defendants, said the counter affidavit deposed to by the 2nd Respondent, Ogboru Shedrack, was false and calculated to mislead the court.