By Onozure Dania
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Yemi Akinseye-George, is demanding a fee of N115million from a firm, Nacenn Nigeria Ltd, for services rendered in recovering a debt. But the company has filed a counter-claim, insisting its contract with the SAN had ended. The firm claims the SAN misled it into overpaying him and is demanding a refund.
What began as a cordial lawyer-client relationship between a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Yemi Akinseye-George, and a company, Nacenn Nigeria Limited, has ended up a subject of litigation.
The SAN sued the firm over alleged unpaid professional fees of N115million.
He is praying the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory for an order to “attach and deduct” the sum from the balance in the company’s account and to transfer it to his account.
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The money in the account, he said, are inflows from judgment-sums received from the Federal Government, which he facilitated. But the company filed a counter-claim, asking for a refund of N50milliion which it claimed it overpaid the SAN due to his “fraudulent misrepresentation”.
Akinseye-George, through his counsel Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), said the company’s Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, the late Chief Greg Ezulike, engaged him to help recover some long-standing debt of about N2billion owed the company by the Federal Government.
The claimant said he was engaged due to his expertise as a professor of law and experience in mediating between the government and the private sector, having also worked as a special assistant to three different Attorneys-General of the Federation.
But Nacenn Nigeria, in its statement of defence and counter-claim, said the suit cannot be maintained against it for non-disclosure of a reasonable cause of action. The firm said it would urge the court either before or during the trial to dismiss or strike out the claim.
The defendant said it was aware that, based on the February 28, 2018 letter of engagement, Prof Akinseye-George “was engaged to provide additional services to support the efforts of other firms already engaged by the first defendant those in relation to the same matter”.
The defendant/counter-claimant, through its counsel Godwin Omoaka (SAN), said the letter of engagement “did not stipulate that the first defendant will pay the claimant 10 per cent of any payment received from the Federal Government on or before 30th March 2018”.
The company added: “Rather, the letter stipulates that the first defendant’s obligations (including payment of 10 per cent of any recovered sum) to the claimant shall terminate automatically after 30th March 2018 from the date the claimant receives the letter if the first defendant does not receive payment of the total sum of N2billion from the Federal Government.”
Nacenn Nigeria admitted that it was paid N500million in November 2019.