A Bayelsa State High Court presided over by Justice Lucky Boufini, on Thursday, struck out 12 suits filed against Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited by surveillance contractors working at its Nembe Creek oilfield in the state.
The surveillance contractors, who are members of the indigenous oil company’s host communities at Opu Nembe in the Nembe Local Government Area, had instituted the cases against Aiteo for allegedly breaching contract terms.
The 12 cases were separately assigned in serial order, according to court records.
The claimants, Nicholas Ebiye, Johnson Theophilus and 10 others, were seeking legal redress over alleged injustice and malicious punishment meted out against the Opu-Nembe Surveillance Contractors by Aiteo.
But in his judgment, Boufini struck out the cases for lack of jurisdiction due to an arbitration clause in the lapsed 2015 contract between the plaintiffs and the defendant, stressing that arbitration should be the primary mechanism for resolving any dispute arising from the contract.
He held that the arbitration clause in the contract does not oust the jurisdiction of the court, but since both parties had agreed to adopt arbitration, he cannot entertain the cases at the first instance until the arbitration option is exhausted.
The judge, therefore, ruled that in the circumstance, arbitration was a condition precedent to any court action, and subsequently struck out the case.