$285m Judgment Debt: How CBN dared S’Court, spurned verdict worries firm

A communications firm, Interstella Communications Ltd on Monday expressed worry over the decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to spurn a valid judgment of the Supreme Court directing it to pay a $285 million judgment sum awarded in its favour by all levels of court in the country.

The firm said the attitude of the apex financial institution could aggravate existing concerns in the international community over the integrity of our national institutions and the operation of the rule of law in Nigeria.

Bar and Bench Watch reports  that the Supreme Court of Nigeria had in a judgment delivered on Dec. 15, 2017 in Appeal No. SC 500/2014 ordered that $285 million be paid to Insterstella Communications Ltd. and Mr Obi Thompson.

The judgment emanated from a suit filed at a trial high court about 15 years ago by judgment creditors (Interstella Communications and Mr Obi Thompson) over breach of contract but which is yet to be complied with.

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Addressing newsmen on Monday, the coordinating counsel for the judgment creditors (Interstella Communications and Thompson), Mr Tony Nnadi, said that several efforts had been made to ensure that CBN complies with the judgment of the apex court but to no avail.

“The judgment creditors find it inconceivable that a straightforward matter such as a breach of commercial contract agreement has gone through the full gamut of legal adjudication in Nigeria.

“It has gone all the way to the apex court of Nigeria because they have allowed it to degenerate to this kind of controversy.

“This could aggravate existing concerns in the international community over the integrity of our national institutions and the operation of the rule of law in Nigeria,” Nnadi said.

He said that the CBN had refused to respond to three letters of demand written to Mr Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the CBN.

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According to Nnadi, as a result, the judgment creditors will take an alternate action to receive the judgment sum from the apex bank.

“The judgment creditors are deliberately being forced to take inevitable measures offshore, to compel the Federal Government and the CBN to obey the orders of their own sovereign supreme court,” he stated.

According to court documents made available to NAN, the judgment creditors had sued the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. (NITEL) at the Federal High Court Umuahia in Abia in suit No. FHC/UM/CS/04.

The suit was instituted for alleged breach of the terms of a telecommunications contract and damages and judgment was delivered in favour of the judgment creditors on Nov. 6, 2007.

In October 2008, the judgment debt stood at N23 billion and $48 million and an inter-ministerial committee was set up by the Federal Government for amicable settlement of the judgment debt.

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As a result, Interstella Ltd. and Thompson (judgment creditors) accepted N12 billion as full and final settlement of the judgment debt.

With the consent of the Federal Government (FG) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the sum N12 billion was entered as consent judgment in court.

The judgment creditors alleged that the FG and AGF reneged on the agreement by paying less than 30 per cent of the judgment sum.

Due to the alleged failure of the FG to pay the full judgment sum, Interstella Communications Ltd. and Thompson launched garnishee proceedings against the FG and AGF, which was made absolute by the High Court.

The CBN, which was to pay the judgment sum, however, appealed the High Court judgment at the Court of Appeal.

But, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, upholding the judgment of the trial court.