The Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF, has embarked on an enlightenment and sensitisation programme for judicial officers to ensure effective adjudication in matters concerning the oil and gas sector in the country.
The Executive Secretary of the Fund, Dr. Bello Aliyu Gusau, in a statement released in Abuja, said the workshop was imperative considering the importance of the sector to the growth and development of the country.
The theme of the workshop is “enhancing the quality of judicial services in the petroleum sector”.
“PTDF found it expedient to collaborate with the National Judicial Institute in hosting the workshop.
“The industry is made up of a network of legal relationships which end up before judges and justices for adjudication.
“ These include matters between the Nigerian state and International oil companies, disputes between different companies in a joint venture, matters between host communities and producing companies or between suppliers and consumers of the products of oil and gas industry,’’ he said.
He noted that it was, therefore, important to ensure that judicial officers were kept abreast of the emerging challenges regarding these relationships.
Gusau added the second reason for the workshop, was the fact that new legislations had given rise to major in fundamental changes in the oil and gas industry are being processed in the legislative chambers.
This, he said, would ultimately end up with judges and justices for interpretation and adjudication.
“One of such legislations which had already been passed by the Senate is the Petroleum Industry (Governance) Bill.
“ Others in the making are the Fiscal framework legislation, and the host community participation bill both before the National Assembly,’’ he said
He named some of the topics for discussion at plenary of the workshop to include fundamentals of oil and gas agreements; guiding rules and principles; The impact of oil spillage and environmental degradation: understanding the legal framework, among others.
Also speaking, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen acknowledged that the ongoing reforms in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector by the Federal Government would throw up innovations in the management of the sector.
He added that it would introduce new legal regimes that will impact on the quality of Justice Delivery by judicial officers.
He challenged stakeholders, particularly judges to take advantage of the workshop to acquaint themselves with the rudiments of the sector and be better prepared for the inevitable disputes that may arise as a consequence.
“The workshop is organised with the objective of keeping our judges abreast with the role of the judiciary in ensuring mastery of the dealings in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
“Indeed, the adjudication 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,” he said
He added that the passage of the Petroleum Industry (Governance) Bill reflected the willingness of government to promote transparency on issues dealing with oil and gas and an indication of the positive direction that the government is steering the oil and gas sector towards.
He urged judicial officers to encourage the application of Alternative Dispute Resolution by parties in the settlement of disputes arising from oil and gas transactions before exploring the option of litigation.
“You must have recourse to the arbitration clauses contained in oil and gas agreements and ensure that parties respect theses clauses before exploring the option of litigation on the matter,” he said
The Nigerian judiciary, he added, remained a key partner in ensuring growth and stability in the oil and gas sector through its interpretation of the relevant laws governing the industry and applying such laws proactively.
He commended the synergy between PTDF and NJI to expand the knowledge base of the judicial officers in oil and gas law.
Also, the Administrator, National Judicial Institute, Justice Roseline Bozimo identified some issues in the sector that were capable of giving rise to contentious legal claims.
The issues, she said, include the impact of oil spillage and environmental degradation in oil producing regions of Nigeria, the remittance of royalties and tax regulations in the oil and gas sector
She added that the resolution of disputes arising from the increasingly complex and dynamic transactions in the rapidly growing Nigerian oil and gas sector, which contributes the largest share of revenue to the economy.
“Consequently, our Judges need to be better acquainted with these developments in the oil and gas sector in order to better perform their adjudicatory duties.
“Judges are now required to posses adequate knowledge and skills to efficiently adjudicate on the cases that may come before them,” she averred.