Justices must refer to the NC Act in Oil and Gas cases – CJN

Oil and Gas companies that fail to comply with the provisions of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act will henceforth be dragged before the law courts by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), the Executive Secretary, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote said in Abuja recently.

He spoke at the first national seminar for Justices and Judges on the Role of the Judiciary in the development of the Nigerian Local Content Law and Policy, organised by the Juris Law Office and NCDMB in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI).

He noted that the NCDMB had used administrative procedures to enforce the Act in the past eight years but will begin to prosecute cases of infringement in line with Section 68 of Nigerian Content Act. “We are changing gear in NCDMB from writing letters of non-compliance on infractions to actual prosecution of offenders who think they can trample on the law of the land on Local Content and get away with it.”

The Executive Secretary said the Board delayed the prosecution option because it wanted to fully exploit the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism, develop its operating guidelines and organise capacity building workshops on the Nigeria Content Act for the Judiciary. “After this workshop, we will begin to institute cases in the courts. If we don’t enforce the provisions of the Act, we will not be able to create employment opportunities for Nigerians from the activities in the industry.”

Giving details of the Board’s achievements, Wabote explained that most fabrication, engineering, and procurement in the oil and gas industry were done abroad prior to the enactment of the NOGICD Act in 2010 and it resulted in estimated capital flight of $380billion Dollars in 50 years. “Estimated job lost opportunities was in the region of two million. The narrative then was that nothing can be done in-country resulting in less than five percent of in-country value addition.

He added much of the 28 percent Local Content achievement recorded since the enactment of the Act till date were done using the passion and commitment of the various directorates of the Board.

According to him, “our next big leap from 28 percent to 70 percent in-country value retention will require step change in the enforcement of the law to drive reversal of capital outflow.”

He further solicited the support of the Justices when interpreting the objectives and philosophy of the NOGICD Act if cases bordering on Local Content become subject of litigation. “We need the support of the judiciary to achieve our drive to create wealth for local businesses and jobs for our teeming populace in line with the law.”

The Local Content boss stated further that the target Nigerian Content level is meant to create 300,000 direct jobs and retain over $14billion in-country out of the $20billion yearly spend.

In his keynote address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen charged judicial officers to always refer to the Nigerian Content Act when deciding matters related to oil and gas servicing and exploration contracts as such agreements must comply with the Act.

He underscored the need for Justices and Judges to keep abreast with developments in the Nigerian oil and gas sector, adding that “the adjudicatory duty of a Judge can only be performed optimally when he remains up to date with the emerging developments and trends in jurisprudence pertaining to the oil and gas sector.”

The CJN challenged judicial officers to ensure speedy resolution of disputes so as to assure investors and other major players in the Oil and Gas industry that their investments are safe.

Onnoghen also directed judicial officers to encourage the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism, such as Arbitration and Mediation to ensure quick resolution of cases in the oil and gas industry.

 

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