$53m debt: Court urges Emefiele, others to explore out of court settlement

•Slates March 24 for mention

The Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday admonished the Central Bank Governor (CBN), Godwin Emefiele on possible out of court settlement in a suit brought against him over $53 million unpaid legal fees.

The court has also slated March 24 for mention on the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1193/2017, wherein an Abuja-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Joe Agi, had on behalf of a team of benefiting lawyers, instituted a legal action against CBN, Minister of Finance and Lintas International Limited over failure to comply with the Garnishee Order of court mandating the payment of $70 million to the beneficiaries.

The total sum of $70 million was the legal fee due to the team of lawyers that secured the Paris Club Refund.

Recall that Agi (Plaintiff/Judgment Creditor) had on October 16, 2018, obtained a Garnishee Order Nisi, directing the CBN to pay the said sum of $70 million.

However, the CBN Governor, Emefiele on November 21, 2018, allegedly ignored the order when he paid only $17 million out of the sum ordered by the court, to the judgment creditor.

Unsatisfied with the development, Agi returned to the court on behalf of his team and on July 5, 2019, he obtained a Garnishee Order Absolute against CBN of which Emefiele is the Governor and alter ego.

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When the matter came up for hearing on January 23, Emefiele was not in court and after Mr. Jephthah Njikonye (SAN), counsel to the judgment creditor (Agi) had told the court that Emefiele was served the judgment summon, yet, he neither appeared in court nor send a representative, the trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo issued a fresh order summoning the CBN Governor to appear and answer to the issues thereto on the next adjourned date of February 26.

And at the resumed sitting yesterday, however, counsel to parties were fully represented but, counsel to Emefiele, Damian Dodo (SAN), prayed the court for a brief adjournment to enable him study the brief, which he has just inherited from the previous counsel.

“I have just been briefed on this matter. I have shared my limitations concerning the matter with my colleagues. I am requesting for time to enable me look at the papers for me to be able to advise my client whether or not to proceed with the matter.”

Since his request was not opposed by counsel to the plaintiff, the judge consequently granted the request and adjourned the matter till March 24 for mention.

Before adjourning the matter, however, Justice Ekwo suggested the need for the respondents to explore out of court settlement process, adding that, “I am not issuing an order. I am only making a suggestion”.

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