The Supreme Court reserved its decision on Thursday on a motion by Union Bank Plc seeking leave to appeal on June 5, 2018.

Court of Appeal judgment ordering the bank and three others to pay $15 billion to an oil and gas firm, Petro Union Limited.

After hearing arguments from lawyers for the parties, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, who led a five-member panel, announced that they would be notified when the ruling was ready.

While arguing the motion, Union Bank’s counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), stated that it contains nine reliefs, including an order for leave to extend the time to file an appeal and another order for leave to appeal under Order 6 Rule 2(1) of the Supreme Court’s Rules.

Awomolo stated that his clients intend to raise new grounds of appeal and present new evidence in order for the court to make a fair and just decision.

He observed that, despite the fact that the judgments of the Federal High Court, Abuja (delivered on March 11, 2014) and the Court of Appeal (which affirmed the Federal High Court judgment) were based on a £2.556b cheque allegedly lodged in Union Bank by Petro Union, the said cheque was never tendered in court.

Awomolo stated that his client intends to prove that Petro Union obtained both judgments through deception. He pointed out that Petro Union’s lawyer, Joe Gadzama (SAN), was only opposed to the grant of four and six of the nine reliefs.

He urged the court to disregard Petro Union’s objection to his motion and grant it on the merits.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN ) Olabisisi Soyebo (SAN) and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Finance, Tijani Gazali (SAN), did not object to Union Bank’s motion.

Soyebo and Gazali, who stated that they did not file any process in relation to the motion, urged the court to grant it due to the massive sum involved and the potential impact on the nation’s economy.

In his response, Gadzama stated that he was factually and legally opposed to the motion.

He urged the court to uphold his objection and dismiss the motion on the grounds that Union Bank failed to provide valid and compelling reasons why leave should be granted.

Previously, the court resolved the dispute between Gazama and Onyechi Egwuonwu over who should represent Petro Union.

The court stated that its previous ruling on July 6, 2021, determined that Gadzama was the actual lawyer for Petro Union. It then barred Egwuonwu from participating in the proceedings in the future.

Petro Union allegedly obtained a cheque for £2.556 billion from a branch of Barclays Bank in the United Kingdom in 1994, which is deposited in a Union Bank branch in Lagos under the guise that the funds were to be used to build three petrochemical refinery complexes and a bank in Nigeria.

Union Bank $15b Debt: Supreme Court Reserves Ruling

Petro Union filed a suit in the Federal High Court in Abuja on March 22, 2012, seeking, among other things, an order of mandamus compelling the CBN, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, the Minister of Finance, and the Attorney-General of the Federation to pay it £2,556,000,000.00.

Petro Union claimed in the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/M/104/2012, that the money was deposited with Union Bank in 1994, adding that Union Bank received £2,556,000,000.00 on its behalf and transferred £2,159,221,318.54 to the CBN while it retained £396,778,681.46 as commission.

The defendants – Union Bank, CBN, Minister of Finance, and AGF – denied Petro Union’s claims in separate counter-affidavits.

However, on March 11, 2014, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati of the Federal High Court in Abuja (now retired) ruled in favor of Petro Union and their directors over the defendants.

Justice Kafarati ruled, among other things, that Union Bank owed Petro Union £396,778,681.46 for the balance of Petro Union’s foreign capital, which it allegedly deposited with the bank in 1994, and that the CBN owed the oil company £2,159,221,318.54.

The court determined that the liabilities were joint and several against all four defendants – CBN, Union Bank, Minister of Finance, and AGF.

Only Union Bank and the CBN filed an appeal against the Federal High Court’s decision.

On June 5, 2018, the Court of Appeal in Abuja handed down its decision in Union Bank’s appeal, upholding Justice Kafarati’s decision. The CBN’s appeal has yet to be decided.

 

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