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Alleged breach of contract: US court rejects Nigeria’s request to cancel N2.7trn fine

District Circuit Court in Washington DC has dismissed the Federal Government’s request for it to set aside its $8.9 billion arbitration award against Nigeria over alleged breach of contract.

The court, presided over by Justice Christopher Cooper, said the request was denied not only on ground that it was belated, but also that it sought the dismissal of the petition for the enforcement of the award.

A government legal team, led by Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, left Nigeria on Wednesday morning to Washington DC to attempt to get the court to set aside the award against Nigeria.

The team also included Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu.

It was joined by a team of foreign solicitors, including Messrs Curtis, Mallet-Prevost and Colt & Mosle LLP, hired by the Federal Government to initiate the legal process to challenge the enforcement of the $8.9 billion award against the country.

But the outcome of the court’s proceedings showed that Nigeria’s motion requesting the court to set aside the clerk’s entry of default award was dismissed.

The court, however, granted a part of the country’s motion that Nigeria was not properly served the process documents by addressing them to the “head of the ministry of foreign affairs” as is the practice under 28 U.S. Code section 1608(a)(3).

The code stipulates the order of service or delivery of a copy of the summons and complaint in U.S. courts to a foreign state or political subdivision of a foreign state.

In his ruling on Friday, Judge Christopher Cooper said the court would have granted Nigeria’s request to set aside entry of default in view of the country’s recent interest to appeal, but described the request as belated.

The law stipulates a period of 30 days within which copies of the summons and complaint and a notice of suit should be sent to a foreign state.

“The motion is denied to the extent it seeks dismissal of the petition,” the judge said.


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