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Court Dismisses Suit By Exxon Mobil Against NMDPRA

A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit brought by Exxon Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited against the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA).

Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed the suit on Wednesday following a motion for discontinuance moved before the court.

The matter was fixed for judgment on Wednesday before Exxon Mobil applied to discontinue the proceedings and moved the court to strike out the suit.

In response, lawyers to NMDPRA, Ama Atuwewe (SAN) and Dr Emeka Akabogu, moved the court to dismiss the suit, arguing that issues have been joined and there was a need for a settled precedent from the court.

The court ruled that the proper order to make in the circumstances is one for dismissal of the suit.

Mobil had approached the court to challenge the competence of NMDPRA to regulate aspects of its operations like butane lifting which it maintained were integrated into its Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) and thus within the exclusive regulatory purview of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).

By its Originating Summons filed on 19 June 2023 in Suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/844/2023, the company’s lawyers argued that the implicated operations were designated as ‘integrated petroleum operations’ in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 (PIA) and consequently prayed the court to restrain NMDPRA from all attempts towards licensing or any other form of regulation of those operations.

In response, NMDPRA through its lawyers, argued that NMDPRA was empowered under the PIA to regulate all midstream and downstream petroleum operations in Nigeria and that the particular operations in question were outside of what the law envisaged as ‘integrated petroleum operations’. After the hearing of the case, the court reserved its judgment for October 25.

This ruling holds considerable significance for the petroleum industry in Nigeria as it affirms the regulatory mandate of the NMDPRA as set out in the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 over all midstream and downstream operations including those of international oil companies involved in such activities.

Responding to the development, NMDPRA’s counsel, Dr. Emeka Akabogu stated that the win is also a big step in the country’s efforts against oil theft, as it ensures separate monitoring of activities in the different streams of the oil and gas value chain undertaken by related interests.

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