The Supreme Court has fixed October 7, 2021, for the hearing of a motion seeking leave to appeal the £2.556 billion judgment order by the Federal High Court in 2014, in favour of Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited against the Central Bank of Nigeria and Union Bank. The Minister of Finance and the Attorney-General of the Federation were also parties to the suit.
The judgment was against CBN and Union Bank and attracts interest at the rate of 15% per annum between 1994 and 2014 and thereafter at the rate of 10% per annum until it is paid. As of today, the total judgment sum is about $15.5 billion.
At the resumed sitting on Monday, the lingering controversy over who was the rightful Counsel of Petro Union in the case came up again with two lawyers, Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN and Onyechi Egwuonwu, announcing separate appearances for Petro Union.
Egwuonwu informed the court that he was briefed to institute the case leading to the judgment at the Federal High Court and that when the matter got to the Court of Appeal, he invited Gadzama to lead the legal team for Petro Union as the “instructing counsel”.
He also told the court that following his application to disqualify Gadzama from further appearing in the matter and to be disbarred, Gadzama hurriedly informed the court of his intention to withdraw his appearance in the case and followed this up by filing an affidavit to the same effect. He argued that having done so, Gadzama is estopped from changing his mind and continuing to act as counsel to Petro Union.
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More so, he posited that having been instructed on a contingency fee basis which means that his fee is tied to a portion of the judgment sum and having been instructed through an irrevocable power of attorney, he could not be debriefed.
Mr. Gadzama drew the Court’s attention to the letter to the Chief Registrar and affidavit of confirmation of legal representation filed by Petro Union confirming that he was their Lead Counsel. The court also directly inquired from the three Directors of Petro Union present in Court who their lawyers are and they each reiterated and confirmed in that their lead lawyer remains Gadzama and that they had asked Egwuonwu to work together with him to no avail.
Following this confirmation, the court informed Egwuonwu that he could no longer be heard in the proceedings.
This paved the way for Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN leading other senior lawyers for the Appellants, to introduce his pending application.
Lawyers for the other Respondents – CBN, Minister of Finance and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Damian Dodo, SAN and Ghazali, SAN informed the court that they were not opposing the application of the Applicant – Union Bank but Mr. Gadzama on behalf of the 1st Respondent (Petro Union) told the court that he had filed a preliminary objection to the application on the ground that the same application for leave to appeal against the same Court of Appeal decision was earlier heard on the merits and dismissed by the Supreme Court on 16th December, 2019.
Owing to the nature of the new application, the court adjourned the hearing in the case to 7th October, 2021.