Supreme Court will today rule on an application brought by the Union Bank of Nigeria Plc for a review of its judgment against the bank ordering it to refund the sum of £2.5billion belonging to Petro Union Oil & Gas Limited trapped in its vault in the past 20 years.
In December 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed a suit by Union Bank of Nigeria Plc challenging the ruling of the Appeal Court Abuja Division upholding the order of the Federal High Court to the bank to release the £2.5bn foreign investor’s funds belonging to Petro Union Oil and Gas Co. Ltd, but illegally being withheld by the commercial bank since 1994.
Union Bank had filed an application before the Supreme Court following the dismissal of its appeal by the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja on June 5, 2018.
But a five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, on December 16, 2019, dismissed Union Bank’s application for lack of competence.
A Certified True Copy of the apex court’s judgment signed by Justice Peter-Odili and obtained by our correspondent, stated that Union Bank’s counsel, Prof. Konyin Ajayi, had earlier withdrawn an application filed on October 5, 2018 for leave to argue appeal on mixed law and facts.
The bank’s application was based on six grounds and supported by a 17-paragraph affidavit.
But while dismissing the application, Justice Odili had ruled, “Application filed on 13/11/2019 is incompetent as all the grounds of appeal in the earlier filed Notice of Appeal of 26/6/18 are all grounds of facts or mixed law and facts and none of pure law.
“The learned silk for the applicant, Prof. Ajay, sought to persuade the court that at least ground 1 would sustain the appeal being a matter on whether the action is statute barred or not. The position taken and canvassed by J.K Gadzama SAN that the said ground one raising the issue of the action being statute barred is of mixed law and facts as it is not just a grouse on jurisdiction simpliciter since the fact of the time running out or not is a matter of facts is the proper position.
“In the end, this application clearly is incompetent as there is no valid appeal before court and so it is dismissed in consequence.”
Union Bank, which had earlier lost the suit at both the Federal High Court in Abuja and the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, had in the suit challenged the decision of the appellate court to uphold the judgment of the lower court to release the foreign investor’s fund belonging to Petro Union Oil and Gas Ltd to the firm.
Union Bank commenced the appeal numbered CA/A/258/2014 before the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on March 7, 2014, when it filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of the Federal High Court in suit number FHC/ABJ/M/104/2012 delivered on March 11, 2014.
The appellant, Union Bank Plc, had appealed against the decision of the appellate court on the order of mandamus issued by the lower court compelling it to release the £2.5bn belonging to Petro Union Oil and Gas Co. Ltd and had dragged the company, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Minister of Finance and the Attorney General of the Federation before the appellate court as respondents.
But ruling on the application, Justice Emmanuel Akomaye, leading two other justices of the Appeal Court – Justice Abdu Aboki and Justice Mohammed Mustapha – dismissed the six grounds contained in Union Bank’s notice of appeal and upheld the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which had in an order of mandamus, compelled Union Bank and Central Bank of Nigeria to “release forthwith and transfer to the applicant her foreign capital of £2,556,000,000.00 (two billion, five hundred and fifty-six million British Pounds Sterling) presently in the unlawful custody of the first and second respondents.”
Recall that the withheld fund, said to have been raised by Petro Union Oil and Gas Company Limited and its partners in 1994, and meant for the construction of an export-oriented refinery in Nigeria as advised by the Federal Government, became a subject of protracted litigation, which also reportedly culminated in the untimely death of the Chief Executive Officer of the company.
The fund was transferred and lodged with Union Bank Plc, through a Barclays Bank Cheque number 010140, dated June 3, 1994, on the orders of Gladstone Kukoyi Associates, the financial and management consultants to Petro Union on the project.
The CBN and Union Bank had refused to release the fund to the investment company, despite three authoritative positions, including a ruling of an Abuja Federal High Court, ordering the apex bank and Union Bank to pay the sum to the claimant.
The lower court’s ruling have been upheld by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the highest court in Nigeria.