The Akwa Ibom government has dragged ExxonMobil to court over an attempt to sell off some of its assets without informing it as a critical partner about the intention to carry out such a major activity.
ExxonMobil had, recently, informed the public that it had reached an agreement to sell its equity interest in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited to Seplat Energy, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.
But, the Akwa Ibom attorney-general and commissioner for justice, Mr Essien Udom, SAN, said that the state government had filed a suit in court to prevent Mobil from proceeding with the sales of the assets.
Udom said: “Mobil has not formerly informed the state government that they are selling off and leaving. Everything we heard was from the media, which is most irresponsible for any corporate citizen. There has been no direct contact with us.
“That’s an action that may frustrate the outcome of a pending court case. Akwa Ibom State Government had to enter a court case restraining Mobil from continuing with the proposed sale of its assets and that’s because there is a pending litigation between Mobil and the government of Akwa Ibom.
“The attempt to sell its asset, some of which may include assets belonging to Akwa Ibom State, is rather upsetting. Mobil has been in Akwa Ibom for several years and the relationship has been very good until recently.
“The fact that they’ll attempt to sell in a surreptitious manner without any discussion with the government of Akwa Ibom State is very distressing and not to be expected from a responsible corporate citizen.
“Responding to why ExxonMobil had dragged the state government to court initially, Udom explained that the company had sued the state government challenging the revocation of some of the Certificates of Occupancy (CofOs).
“It is, therefore, a big surprise to us that in the pendency of these law suits, they went ahead and attempt to sell some of the assets and leave. That is why we have the order, stopping them from continuing the sales and removing any asset from Akwa Ibom.
“The sale cannot be allowed to proceed because when you have parties contesting ownership of an asset, all those things would be kept in abeyance. The court has the right to keep what is called ‘subject matter of litigation.’
“Any attempt by either of the parties to deplete the asset or sell or dispose of them would be resisted by the court. It is contemptuous actually,” he added.