- The attention of Moni Pulo Limited has been drawn to several media reports published online, including by Leadership newspaper on 19th July 2022 regarding a warrant of arrest for Dr. (Mrs.) Seinye O.B. Lulu-Briggs (Mrs. Lulu-Briggs), the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Moni Pulo Limited (MPL) issued by the Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
- According to the publications, the warrant of arrest was sought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and granted by the Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo on 16th May 2022 to the effect that Mrs. Lulu-Briggs be arrested anywhere within and outside the country. To us, this is an absolute illustration of a case of gross abuse of power and of court processes, disregard of the rule of law, harassment, intimidation and violation of Mrs. Lulu-Briggs’ fundamental human rights by the EFCC.
- The information provided by the EFCC in support of the warrant of arrest of Mrs. Lulu-Briggs relates to an alleged claim of ownership of 30% shares in MPL by the estate of Dan Obuekwe and his alleged removal as a shareholder in MPL. In the entire case made by EFCC to the Court for the issuance of the warrant of arrest, and save for the fact that Mrs. Lulu-Briggs is the current Chairman of MPL, there is no single allegation of crime made against her.
- It is on record that in February 2022, Mrs. Lulu-Briggs authored a pending petition against Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and also filed a formal application before Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo requesting that he recuse himself from further handling any matter involving MPL and its shareholders, because of his obvious and manifest bias against Mrs. Lulu-Briggs in the matter before him filed by Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and others. It is therefore surprising that the same Honorable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo could go ahead to order a warrant of arrest against Mrs. Lulu-Briggs.
MPL states categorically that Mrs. Lulu-Briggs has never been and is not involved in any act of terrorism, banditry, embezzlement of public funds, money laundering or any act of official corruption to necessitate the issuance of the warrant of arrest by the Court.
Mrs. Lulu-Briggs and MPL are involved in the business of oil and gas exploration and production by virtue of the oil mining licenses that were validly and lawfully awarded to MPL since its establishment as a pioneer indigenous oil and gas company in 1992. For almost 30 years now, MPL has been creditably nurtured and grown without breach of any law and regulation regarding its operations. From inception till date, MPL has worked very hard to develop and grow the brand without engaging in any form of financial or economic crime while contributing proudly and substantially to the economy of this great nation.
- The alleged issue of the forfeiture of shares in MPL by Dan Obuekwe took place between 1991 and 1996, long before Mrs. Lulu-Briggs became a shareholder and director of MPL. In the petition written by Dan Obuekwe to the EFCC in 2007, an allegation of forgery of Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) documents was made against Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs – who, at the time, acted as company secretary of MPL. After a thorough and full-blown investigation, the EFCC concluded that the issues were purely commercial in nature and there was no crime, financial or economic, made by MPL and the late High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs (HCLB). Nonetheless, EFCC then prevailed on HCLB and MPL to ‘settle’ Dan Obuekwe. This led to the execution of a Deed of Settlement dated 27th February 2008 between Dan Obuekwe, HCLB and MPL.
- About four (4) years after the execution of the Deed of Settlement and the ensuing receipt of monetary compensation to Dan Obuekwe by MPL, he resorted to Court by filing an action before the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt in 2012, repeating the same claim to shares in MPL. MPL defended this case with clear evidence. The Court delivered judgment on the case on 21st April 2015, holding that Dan Obuekwe did not prove that he held shares in MPL. The Court consequently declined his claim to the 30% stake in OML114. To date, there has been no appeal against the said judgment.
- Despite the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, the administrators of the estate of Dan Obuekwe filed a fresh action on 4th February 2021 before the Federal High Court, Calabar; claiming the same reliefs as were demanded in Dan Obuekwe’s Federal High Court, Port Harcourt suit that was decided against him on 21st April 2015. In the Calabar suit, the said administrators of Dan Obuekwe reeled out a litany of the same petitions. It is this information that the EFCC relied upon in applying for the warrant of arrest against Mrs. Lulu-Briggs. MPL and Mrs. Lulu-Briggs, who are listed as defendants to the suit before the Federal High Court, Calabar have made a counterclaim against the estate of Dan Obuekwe, relying on the judgment delivered on 21st April 2015 by the Federal High Court Port Harcourt. Despite the fact that the suit is Calabar – which MPL has formally communicated to EFCC – EFCC has continued to subject Mrs. Lulu-Briggs and MPL to unending investigations and harassment over a civil matter that is sub judice.
- Since 2016 till date, the EFCC has allowed itself to be engaged by faceless persons who claim to be the administrators of the estate of Dan Obuekwe to hound and intimidate MPL and Mrs. Lulu-Briggs over issues that had been settled via a monetary payment based on the 27th February 2008 Deed of Settlement and in court by the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt on 21st April 2015. In pursuit of these baseless petitions, the EFCC invited Mrs. Lulu-Briggs (who was then the Executive Vice Chairman of MPL) in 2016. Subsequently, as a law-abiding corporate citizen, MPL has honored EFCC invitation on numerous occasions. Mrs. Lulu-Briggs has made several statements to the EFCC and tendered a plethora of documents, including the Federal High Court Port Harcourt judgment of the 21st April 2015, on the matter, denying any form of liability or any financial or economic crime in MPL’s operations. During Mrs. Lulu-Briggs’ (3) three visits to EFCC in 2016 for interrogations, none of the faceless persons behind the incessant petitions appeared at the EFCC. Not even when the then Head of the Counter Terrorism and General Investigation (CTGI) of EFCC demanded to see them. On the other hand, Mrs. Lulu-Briggs provided EFCC with all the information and documents available to her regarding the investigations on the shares of MPL.
- Strangely in 2018, upon the demise of her husband, HCLB, the EFCC placed Mrs. Lulu-Briggs on the immigration watchlist. On three occasions, the Nigerian Immigration Service intercepted and embarrassed Mrs. Lulu-Briggs when she was travelling abroad/returning home. Mrs. Lulu-Briggs was left with no option than to seek judicial redress by filing for the enforcement of her fundamental rights. On 21st February 2022, the Federal High Court, Lagos found merit in her suit against the EFCC and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and awarded the sum of N15million, each against the EFCC and NIS, and ordering them to publish apologies to her in national dailies. This is one of the reasons EFCC is hounding Mrs. Lulu-Briggs in clear disobedience of the judgment of the FHC that upholds and preserves her fundamental human rights.
- It is evident that EFCC is all out to destroy the hard-earned reputation built over the years by Mrs. Lulu-Briggs and a business concern which has nothing to do with public funds nor threatens the sovereignty or security of the Nigerian state by any means. Mrs. Lulu-Briggs is not also involved in any form of espionage or trans-border crime to warrant the manner of the arrest warrant issued against her. It is, therefore, baffling that the focus of the entire security apparatus of Nigeria and Interpol is being deployed by the EFCC against Mrs. Lulu-Briggs who is involved in very legitimate business from which Nigeria earns millions of dollars in foreign exchange annually.
- In a pure act of victimization, the EFCC has engaged in filing series of baseless cases against Mrs. Lulu-Briggs. In so doing, the EFCC has restricted the operations of the accounts of MPL in all banks in Nigeria since 2nd December 2021 without any order of court. The EFCC has recently filed a baseless criminal charge against Mrs. Lulu-Briggs regarding the same claims to shares by Late Dan Obuekwe and we have frontally challenged same by an application seeking to quash the said criminal charge. The said ‘criminal charge’ came up on the 13th of July 2022 and we were in court but EFCC abandoned the charge as they were absent in court.
- It has become glaring that the EFCC has abandoned its core mandate to curb corruption and embezzlement of public funds and has assumed substantial interest in the private shareholding claims of Dan Obuekwe. This is further demonstrated by the fact that EFCC is currently pursuing three suits against Mrs. Lulu-Briggs and MPL (Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/180/2022; Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/875/2022, and FHC/ABJ/CS/653/2022), all filed concurrently in 3 (three) different courts of the FHC Abuja over the same Dan Obuekwe’s false claim to shares in MPL, a civil matter that has since been decided by the FHC Port Harcourt in 2015 during the lifetime of both Dan Obuekwe and HCLB, and was never appealed against. All these antics by the EFCC are shockingly geared towards demarketing, crippling and bringing down MPL, a viable oil and gas company, ably headed by an innocent widow, a legitimate private citizen of Nigeria.
- Against this unwarranted onslaught by EFCC, MPL and Mrs. Lulu-Briggs filed a fresh fundamental rights enforcement action on 28th February 2022 before the Federal High Court, Lagos. Rather than heed the suit, the EFCC rejected service of the court processes and resorted to embarrass, harass and malign Mrs. Lulu-Briggs and MPL through the same judicial process.
- At the moment, MPL and Mrs. Lulu-Briggs are confronting the cases filed concurrently by EFCC against them in three different courts, squarely, and only require a fair, unbiased and impartial judiciary to listen to their story and decide the matters without any form of arm-twisting by the EFCC.
- EFCC is simply targeting Mrs. Lulu-Briggs, the widow of the Founder of MPL, High Chief Dr O.B. Lulu-Briggs, who built the company from the scratch, because she is a woman. This is against her constitutional right against discrimination on the grounds of gender.
- In defense and preservation of her hard-earned reputation and honour, Dr. (Mrs.) Seinye Lulu-Briggs will continue to seek the appropriate legal remedies to deal with this unusual and malicious exercise of powers by the EFCC against her person and MPL, her legitimate business. Mrs. Lulu-Briggs and MPL only pray that they should be given a fair opportunity to deal with the legal issues while calling on the justice system in Nigeria and the international community not to allow EFCC to destroy the business of MPL, which took years of hard work and perseverance to nurture and grow, and render hundreds of Nigerian employees in the company jobless.
- As a committed and dedicated indigenous oil and gas company in Nigeria with a sterling reputation in the global oil and gas business, MPL shall continue to resist and fend off any attempt by any person or authority, howsoever well placed, to deliberately obliterate its legitimate business by desperate and unfair means.
Management of Moni Pulo Limited