urges parties to explore out-of-court settlement
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Federal High Court, on Wednesday, adjourned till March 24 to hear a suit that was brought against the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, by a group of lawyers over $53 million unpaid legal fees.
Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the matter on a day he enjoined the CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to explore an out-of- court settlement of the matter.
Other defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1193/2017, are the Minister of Finance and a firm, Lintas International Limited.
An Abuja-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Joe Agi, had on behalf of the team of benefiting lawyers, instituted the action over failure of the defendants to comply with a Garnishee Order of court that mandated the payment of $70 million to the beneficiaries.
According to the court processes, the total sum of $70m was the total legal fee due to the lawyers that secured the Paris Club Refund.
The Plaintiff/Judgment Creditor had on October 16, 2018, obtained a Garnishee Order Nisi, directing the CBN to pay the said sum of $70m.
However, the litigants alleged that the CBN Governor, Emefiele on November 21, 2018, ignored the order when he paid only $17m out of the sum ordered by the court, to the judgment creditor.
Dissatisfied with his action, Agi, SAN, returned to the court on behalf of his team and on July 5, 2019, obtained a Garnishee Order Absolute against CBN of which Emefiele is the Governor and alter ego.
Likewise, the court, on January 23, summoned Emefiele to appear before it to explain why he declined to give total compliance to its order.
Counsel to the judgment creditor, Mr. Jephthah Njikonye, SAN, had notified the court that Emefiele was duly served with the judgment summon.
At the resumed proceeding on Wednesday, counsel to the CBN, governor, Mr. Damian Dodo, SAN, said he would require a short adjournment to enable him to study the case-file he said was just passed to him.
“I have just been briefed on this matter. I have shared my limitations concerning the matter with my colleagues.
“I am requesting for time to enable me look at the papers for me to be able to advise my client whether or not to proceed with the matter”, he submitted.
Since his request was not opposed by counsel to the judgement creditor, Justice Ekwo accordingly adjourned the matter.
Nevertheless, he encouraged the parties to explore an amicable resolution of the matter.