Equinor wins a decade-long courtroom battle over Nigeria’s oil income

By William Clowes on 02/05/2021

(Bloomberg) – Equinor ASA said the Nigerian Supreme Court overturned a ruling that threatened to divert 1.5% of the company’s profits from one of the country’s largest oil fields to a former advisor.

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling that the lower courts have no jurisdiction over the case should end a dispute that has been raging in courtrooms across the West African nation for more than a decade, Equinor spokesman Erik Haaland said. “We are satisfied with the court’s decision, which is in line with our position,” he said in a statement emailed.

The former advisor who sued Norwegian oil producer John Abebe is also facing trial in a separate case accusing him of forging documents that were presented as evidence during his original lawsuit. This comes from a statement posted on the Nigerian Financial Crime Commission website.

The ruling removes Equinor’s risk of losing part of the proceeds from the company’s 20.2% interest in the Agbami oil field, located approximately 70 miles off the Nigerian coast. The deep water area currently produces around 130,000 barrels per day.

Haaland said the Supreme Court nullified a 2010 ruling that Equinor inherited BP Plc’s commitments in Nigeria when the latter exited Africa’s largest crude oil producer in the late 1990s and ended a commercial partnership between the two companies have. The commitments transferred included a contract between BP and Abebe that entitled the businessman to 1.5% of profits once the oil giant’s Nigerian offshore assets began producing, a federal judge ruled 11 years ago. An appeals court rejected Equinor’s previous attempt to overturn the 2012 decision.

“It’s a tough decision,” Abebe’s lawyer Uche Nwokedi said via text message. “We’ll study it when we get a copy of the verdict and decide what to do next.”

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