UK Court sets aside charging order against Nigeria
In a judgment issued this month, the English High Court has set aside a charging order enforcing an arbitral award and related foreign judgment made against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The case relates a contract between the Federal Republic of Nigeria And L R Avionics Technologies Limited, an Israeli company, for the supply of military equipment. The dispute arose in in January 2012 and an award issued by a sole arbitrator, Mr. Babajide Ogundipe in February 2013. He awarded $5 million to the claimant as damages for breach of contract and Naira 4.71 million (equivalent to about £26,500) for costs.
Although a court in Abuja had set aside the award in March 2013, the claimant was able to get the decision overturned by the Federal High Court in June 2014 which entered judgment ordering the defendants, the government of Nigeria, to pay the sums awarded together with interest at the prevailing bank rate from 11 March 2013.
Despite the court order in Nigeria, the government did not comply. The claimant thus applied to enforce the award in the UK and registered the Nigerian judgement. The government of Nigeria was duly served as per section 12 of the State Immunity Act. The defendants did not acknowledge service.
The claimant was looking to enforce the award against a property in office premises at 56/57 Fleet Street in London. This property is owned by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and is leased, for £150 000/year rent, to Online Integrated Solution Ltd an official partner of the Nigerian High Commission, for the purpose of providing Nigerian visa and passport services on its behalf. The claimant argued that this property is not subject to immunity as per the … act as it “is currently 'in use or intended for use' for a commercial transaction”.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria claimed that the property falls under the realm of the State Immunity Act as it is in use for consular activities.
The judge set aside the charging order stating “the law of state immunity exists in international law and has been given effect in the 1978 Act in order to promote wider interests of justice than those of the parties to any individual case. For the reasons I have given the Fleet Street property is immune from execution.”
The Federal Republic of Nigeria was represented by Ms Hilda Ephraim-Adejumo (instructed by Gromyko Amedu Solicitors)
The L R Avionics Technologies Limited was represented by Ms Zahra Al-Rikabi (instructed by Anthony Seddon Solicitors)
The full decision can be accessed here.