A Federal High Court in Lagos will decide on December 10, whether the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) can lawfully regulate if or how oil and gas firms can disengage their workers.
Justice Nicolas Oweibo set the case down for judgement after parties adopted their respective processes.
The suit was filed by an oil and gas lawyer, Temilolu Adamolekun against the Minister of Petroleum, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Attorney-General of the Federation as first to third defendants/respondents.
Adamolekun told the court that that the Petroleum Minister made Regulations 15A Petroleum (Drilling and Production) (Amendment) Regulations 1988 to the effect that holders of oil mining lease, license or permit must seek his approval to remove any worker from his employment and seeks to enforce the regulation through the Guidelines for the release of staff in the Nigerian oil and gas industry 2019, published by the DPR.
Adamolekun in adopting his process prayed the court to quash the regulation on the ground that it contravened the provisions of national assembly enactments on employees and employers dispute which is the sole responsibility of National Industrial Court.
But counsel to the minister of Petroleum Resources and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) Mr Adebayo Ologe opposed him.
Ologe, filed a preliminary objection, praying the court to strike out the suit for lack/want of jurisdiction, lack of locus standi to sue and/or lack of reasonable cause of action.
In his June 5, statement of claim, Adamolekun had contended that the regulations and guidelines being subsidiary laws and procedural rules have clearly gone outside the relevant subsidiary law, which is the Petroleum Act, 2004.
The regulations and guidelines, he argued, violate the principle of separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial arms of government.
“There is no law that makes the powers of the 1st and 2nd defendant to be an exception to the sanctity of the doctrine of privacy of contract,” he said.
He averred further that, “In the wake of the dreaded COVID-19 which has resulted in the crash in crude oil prices, several oil and gas firms including clients of the applicant are taking major decisions such as downsizing their staff strength to enable them survive these trying times.”
He prayed the court for a declaration that the Regulations 15A and the Guidelines are not grounded /founded on the provisions of the Petroleum Act 2004 and the 1999 Constitution.
“A declaration that by virtue of Section 254 of the Constitution, the first and second defendants lack the powers to adjudicate and determine the rights of employers and their employees in relation to their employment contracts…and that such power is completely vested in the National Industrial Court.
“An order that the provisions of the Regulations and the Guidelines for the release in the Nigerian oil and gas industry 2019, made pursuant to the regulations are void to the existent of their inconsistency with the constitution.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from enforcing the provisions of Regulations 15A Petroleum (Drilling and Production) (Amendment) Regulations 1988 and the Guidelines for the release in the Nigerian oil and gas industry 2019.”