A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to produce Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Limited Ifeanyi Ubah on Friday.
Justice Mohammed Idris ruled on an ex-parte application by Ubah through his counsel, Mrs. Ifeoma Esom.
The businessman is praying the court to compel DSS to release him from its custody.
Esom argued that unless the court orders the applicant to be produced in court within 48 hours, the DSS and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will continue to keep him in their custody.
She said they ought “coerce him into acceding to whatever conditions they impose on him in exchange for his freedom”.
The EFCC, the DSS Director-General, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) are among the respondents.
DSS arrested Ubah for alleged “economic sabotage” and “illegal sale of petroleum products stored in his tank farm by the NNPC”.
“So far, it has been established that the products stolen amount to over N11billion,” the DSS said in a statement.
In a supporting affidavit to Ubah’s application, Capital Oil’s Secretary, George Oranuba, said the DSS acted in disregard of “the constitutional doctrine of separation of power and sanctity of the judicial process”.
According to him, the arrest was over allegations made by the NNPC and AMCON, which were already subject of a lawsuit.
“Notwithstanding the pendency of this suit and the service of the originating process as aforesaid, the respondents again invited Ubah to report to their offices in respect of the same allegations made by the NNPC and AMCON, which is the subject matter of the instant suit,” Oranuba said.
Oranuba said a “throughput agreement” between Capital Oil and NNPC allows for “conversion and diversion of products by ‘operators’ so long as the operator is prepared to re-deliver the products within seven days of demand by the products owner or to pay a penalty for non-redelivery”.
According to him, the failure to re-deliver was a “mere” breach of contract, which can be remedied by the payment of penalty to the owner, and was not a criminal act.
“The throughput agreement expressly states that any penalty due for non-re-delivery is to be treated as a debt and I verily believe that law enforcement agencies are not allowed to operate as debt collectors,” the deponent said.
Oranuba said NNPC was indebted to Capitol Oil in “excess of N13 billion”, yet the company did not call law enforcement agencies to collect the debt.
The DSS claimed Ubah had further engaged “in other activities inimical to national security and public order”.
“In furtherance of his gimmicks to undermine the government and people of Nigeria, he has incited members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), a critical player in the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry, to refuse/stop the lifting of products,” it said.
But, the PTD wing of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) faulted the DSS over the allegation, saying no individual or institution can be allowed to use tanker drivers to cause economic sabotage.