Continued police interference in civil cases




Jemine Razak

Police involvement in a civil dispute is again revealed in a criminal charge filed against the Chief Executive Officer of Lionstone Offshore Services Limited, Mr. Amaechi Ndili and his wife Mrs Njide Ndili, who were charged before the Lagos Special Offences Court, Ikeja over a civil business dispute between the company and Hercules Offshore Nigeria Limited.

This is despite the clear stand of the law, and the judgements of superior courts that the Nigerian police has no business in adjudicating on business disputes, or recovering of civil debts. In this case, the defendants were alleged to have fraudulently converted the sum of $4.6 million said to belong to Hercules Offshore Nigeria Limited to their personal use.

Lionstone and Hercules in 2012 entered into a Joint Bidding Agreement, pursuant to which Lionstone would bid on work in the Nigerian oil services sector and both parties would collaborate on the execution. Both parties in the MoU acknowledged that any disputes arising would be the subject of arbitration in London.

Prior to the tender of the contract number TB2813, Addax solely awarded Lionstone an interim contract with reference number TB2916. Hercules was neither a party to this contract, nor where they mentioned in this contract. This contract TB2916 was signed between Lionstone and Addax in October 2010, a full one month before the Tenders were due on contract TB2813. (that was eventually lost).

However, under the new deal, and as a result of the potential strategic nature of their relationship, both parties agreed to share the proceeds from the interim contract solely awarded to Lionstone by Addax.

However, while the business was going on, Lionstone alleged breach of contract and good faithcon the side of Hercules, and insisted that Hercules remedy its breach. The disagreement led both parties to submit themselves before the Arbitration Tribunal in London as contained in their MOU and at the end of its sitting, the Tribunal made its findings and granted the award to Hercules.

In a bid to enforce the arbitral award, Hercules approached the Federal High Court, Lagos in suit number FHC/L/CS/1461/2017, and the matter is currently before the Court of Appeal in appeal number CA/LAG/CV/344/2019. Lionstone denied the claim insisting that Hercules and Lionstone were not in a partnership or agency relationship and that Hercules was indeed in breach of local content laws in Nigeria.

While the litigation was ongoing in Nigeria Courts, Hercules Offshore now bankrupt, seeing that they may likely loss the case and appeal, sort the support of the Nigerian police, asking the police to compel Lionstone to pay the contested sum, while alleging fraudulent conversion of money paid to Lionstone under the contract signed solely between Addax and Lionstone.

The police have gone ahead to insert itself in the case in a view to the intimidate the directors. In 2020 the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) of the Federation in a bid to intervene called for the files from the police prosecutors and showed up in court to take over the matter, as per the Constitution. The police however resisted this by refusing to hand over the files.

A subsequent request was made in 2022, and following several requests from the DPP, the IGP instructed the OC Legal of the police to transfer the case file for review. The DPP office received the file a few days before the arraignment date of October 19th and attempted to retrieve the case file from the court.

Consequently, Lionstone, its CEO and family have continued to face malicious persecution, allegations of theft, and police harassment.