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Nigeria may lose $21m over Judgment Debt

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By Okunloye Abiodun

The assets seizure from its JP Morgan account intends to settle the judgment.

If no action is taken, Nigeria is on the verge of losing about $21 million in foreign assets held by the prominent global financial institution, JP Morgan. This impending loss stems from filing a formal request in the form of a U.K. judgment debt, aiming to withdraw the mentioned sum from Nigeria’s account at JP Morgan. Nigeria’s appeal against a British Court ruling was brushed aside, leading to a withdrawal notice being served. This notice triggered the seizure of assets from Nigeria’s JP Morgan account, intended to settle a five-year-old judgment against the country.

Brown Gavalas & Fromm LLP law firm and other lawyers hired by the government of President Bola Tinubu are querying the action on procedural grounds at the moment. Also, all parties have rounded up their filings prior to the verdict, which can be made at any moment by the court. Emovbira Williams, a citizen with British-Nigerian dual nationality, brought a lawsuit against the federal government in a U.K. Court. He accused the State Security Service (SSS), a Nigerian authority, of committing fraud and abusing his rights after a business deal failure.

A commercial agreement between Nigeria and the plaintiff collapsed.

Justice Mary Clare Moulder, leading the proceedings of the court, rendered a ruling on November 9, 2018. In an act of justice, Williams emerged victorious, compelling Nigeria to compensate him with the astonishing sum of $6.5 million. Furthermore, this amount accumulated an additional 9 percent interest over the span of five years. In a ruling delivered on December 19 of the previous year, a British court dismissed Nigeria’s appeal against the judgment debt, deeming it inadequate and devoid of substance. Presiding Judge Robert Bright upheld the previous ruling granted by Justice Mary Clare Moulder, which permitted the plaintiff/applicant to withdraw $21 million and roughly £20,000 from Nigeria’s central bank account with JP Morgan.

Moulder declared that the defendant’s plea was dismissed, thus upholding the default judgment pronounced on November 9, 2018. Bright discredited Nigeria’s feeble argument of immunity as a basis for nullifying the debt ruling. Nigeria’s troubles started in the late 1980s when a commercial agreement with the plaintiff collapsed, leading to his incarceration. In 1986, Williams claimed that he had ensured the payment of $6.5 million to a U.K. trustee’s account for the importation of food items from England to Nigeria, as per the Nigerian government’s instructions. Unfortunately, the transaction turned bitter when the federal government failed to uphold their end of the agreement by neglecting to reimburse him, as stated by Williams.

Defiance in making the payment led to the initiation of legal action.

In 1986, the plaintiff made known that his journey to Nigeria resulted in his arrest, trial by a military tribunal on charges of economic sabotage, and ultimately, a 10-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, after three years of serving time, he managed to successfully escape from the confines of the Nigerian prison in 1989, seeking refuge in London. The plaintiff revealed additional information stating that in August 1993, the former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, granted him a presidential pardon, clearing him of all accusations and ensuring full reimbursement of the funds. Surprisingly, despite the shift to a democratic government in 1999, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) allegedly neglected to remit the payment for an extended period.

Furthermore, Nigeria’s defiance in making the payment led to the initiation of legal action at the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice. There, the court demanded that the funds be withdrawn from Nigeria’s JP Morgan savings account in the United States. In response, Nigeria’s CBN refuted the ruling, asserting that as a sovereign state, it was not bound by the directives of foreign nations. However, in a recent ruling, the judge dismissed Nigeria’s plea of immunity, deeming it insufficient. The judge asserted that Williams’ business agreement with the Nigerian government included the transfer of funds to a U.K. citizen trustee, and the funds were held in a U.K. bank.

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On December 19, 2023, Mr. Bright from the High Court of Justice in the King’s Bench Division made a ruling that Dr. Williams’ complaint is centred around the trust agreement. The agreement stated that the funds guaranteed by Dr. Williams were to be held by a trustee in England, representing the Federal Government of Nigeria. Additionally, Mr. Bright believes that the complaint aligns with section 3(1)(b). Consequently, this lawsuit does not shield the Nigerian Federal Government from legal processes. The plaintiff can now bolster their argument before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. In response, the plaintiff’s legal team has lodged a notice to extract the $21 million in U.K. court awarded funds from Nigeria’s account held in JP Morgan.

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1 month ago

Nigeria may lose $21m over Judgment Debt. – The assets seizure from its JP Morgan account intends to settle the judgment.Express your point of view.

1 month ago

The news of a potential $21 million loss from Nigeria’s JP Morgan account due to a UK judgment debt is troubling. The legal battle and dismissal of the government’s appeal raise concerns about our country’s foreign assets. It’s crucial for the government to address this issue promptly and explore legal avenues to protect our financial interests.

Adeoye Adegoke
1 month ago

I understand the concern about Nigeria potentially losing $21 million over a judgment debt and the seizure of assets from its JP Morgan account to settle the judgment. It’s undoubtedly a significant financial setback for the country. Such situations can have far-reaching implications, affecting the economy, government finances, and the overall well-being of the Nigerian people.
It’s crucial for the government to carefully navigate through these challenges and take proactive measures to mitigate the impact. Effective debt management strategies, transparent legal processes, and prudent financial planning are essential in safeguarding the country’s financial interests and ensuring sustainable economic growth.
This incident highlights the importance of maintaining a robust legal system and promoting fair and just resolution of disputes. It’s crucial for Nigeria to strengthen its legal framework, improve contract enforcement, and foster an environment that attracts investments and encourages economic growth.
Addressing this issue requires a multi-faceted approach. It involves not only resolving the immediate judgment debt situation but also implementing long-term measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. This may include reviewing debt management policies, enhancing financial transparency, and strengthening institutions responsible for managing government finances.
I hope that the government takes swift and decisive action to address this issue, recover any lost funds, and put in place measures to prevent such situations from occurring again. With proper planning, effective governance, and a commitment to financial prudence, Nigeria can overcome this challenge and continue on its path towards economic prosperity.

1 month ago

That Nigeria could lose $21 million as a result of a judgment debt is depressing to learn. Finding strategies to reduce losses while maintaining the nation’s financial stability will need the government to carefully manage these difficulties.improving financial transparency, reevaluating debt management guidelines, and fortifying the agencies in charge of overseeing public funds

1 month ago

A five-year-old judgment against Nigeria prompted the seizure of assets from the country’s JP Morgan account, and it looks like Nigeria could soon lose roughly $21 million in foreign assets held by the well-known international financial firm.something should be done to avoid this kind of loss