Supreme Court to hear Union Bank’s motion

By Moses Emorinken, Abuja

 

The Supreme Court yesterday resolved to hear a motion filed by Union Bank of Nigeria Plc in its bid to set aside about $15 billion judgment which a firm, Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, got against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and three others.

The apex court fixed October 7 for the hearing of the motion in which Union Bank is praying, among others, for leave to appeal the judgment Petro Union got.

During yesterday’s proceedings, Union Bank’s lead lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), told the court about his pending motion.

Lawyers to the CBN, the Minister of Finance and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) – Damian Dodo (SAN) and Tijani Ganzali (SAN) -did not oppose the motion.

Lawyer to Petro Union, Joe Gadzama (SAN), told the court that he had filed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the motion.

Petro Union claimed, in 1994, to have got a cheque from a branch of Barclays Bank in the United Kingdom (UK) valued at £2.556 billion and presented it at a Union Bank branch in Lagos, under the pretext that it was meant for the construction of three petrochemical refinery complexes in Nigeria and establish a bank.

 

While the required due diligence investigations were being carried out, Petro Union requested the CBN to release the cheque.

The apex bank and Union Bank thus informed Petro Union that Barclays Bank in the UK had been contacted but that the cheque could not be given value to because the company that purportedly issued the cheque on December 29, 1994 (a company called Gazeaft Limited) did not exist on the Register of Companies in the UK.

The response also affirmed that the account on which the cheque was drawn was closed on September 21, 1989, whereas the cheque was issued on December 29, 1994 – five years after the account had been closed.

Following the response by the CBN and Union Bank, Petro Union and Isaac Okpala petitioned the Lagos office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged stealing and criminal conversion against the CBN and Union Bank.

At the conclusion of its investigation, the EFCC issued a letter, dated May 10, 2005, addressed to the Managing Director of Union Bank and absolved the bank of any wrongdoing.

Petro Union, in February 2012, filed a suit at a Federal High Court in Abuja against the CBN, Union Bank, the Finance Minister and the AGF.

The company alleged, among others, that Union Bank received £2,556,000,000.00 on behalf of Petro Union, transferred £2,159,221,318.54 to the CBN and retained £396,778,681.46 as commission.

Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court gave a judgment in favour of Petro Union in 2014 for £2.556 billion, which also carried an interest of 15 per cent per annum from June 22, 1995 until payment, which now stands in excess of £12 billion (about $15.5 billion).

The Appeal Court upheld the judgment, necessitating the current move by Union Bank to set aside the verdict.

 

 

 

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