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Supreme Court allows Union Bank to prosecute $15b Petro Union appeal on merit

By Joseph Onyekwere
23 December 2021   |   3:00 am
The Supreme Court, yesterday, unanimously granted Union Bank’s application to appeal on its merit, a previous Court of Appeal judgment, which upheld a Federal High Court decision

Union bank

The Supreme Court, yesterday, unanimously granted Union Bank’s application to appeal on its merit, a previous Court of Appeal judgment, which upheld a Federal High Court decision against it, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Minister of Finance, and Attorney General of the Federation.

A Federal High Court had in 2014 awarded the sum of £2.550 billion with 15 per cent interest yearly to Petro Union Oil and Gas Company Limited (Petro Union).

The apex court, in a lead decision delivered by Justice Adamu Jauro, and to which other justices on the panel (Dattijo-Muhammad, Centus Nweze, Uwani Abba-Aji, and Helen Ogunwunmiju) concurred, dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Petro Union.

The court dismissed the preliminary objection on the basis that the previous ruling of the court on December 16, 2018, was not on the merits of the matter.

The court subsequently granted Union Bank permission to appeal the judgment of the lower court. Union Bank was given 30 days after the appeal is entered to file its brief of arguments.

The series of events culminating in the suits began in 1994 when Petro Union procured a cheque from a branch of Barclays Bank in the UK with a value of £2.556 billion and presented it at one of Union Bank’s branches in Lagos, with a claim that it planned to construct some refineries and establish a bank.

Union Bank collected the cheque and refused to give it the money. Petro Union consequently filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court in a bid to compel the CBN, Union Bank, Minister of Finance and Attorney General of the Federation to honour the cheque.

The court upheld all Petro Union’s claims and gave judgment to the company against CBN, Union Bank, Minister of Finance and Attorney General of the Federation jointly and severally.

Union Bank later claimed it investigated the source of the cheque, only to discover through Barclays Bank that the account against which the cheque was drawn had been closed in 1989, five years before the cheque was presented in Lagos and that the company, which purportedly issued the cheque, had also been dissolved in 1989, a claim Petro Union had consistently denied.

Following the ruling of the Supreme Court, the stage is now set for the apex court to consider the appeal on its merits and dispense justice to all concerned.

The appeals filed by CBN and the Attorney General of the Federation for himself and the Minister of Finance are currently pending at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, and are now likely to be given an accelerated hearing.

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