Nigeria has won the first round of the legal battle to stop the execution of the $9.6billion judgement debt imposed on her by a commercial court in the United Kingdom (UK).
The UK court on the first hearing of the case yesterday, after it awarded the fine against Nigeria, granted the federal government leave to appeal the judgment which was in favour of an Irish firm, Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID).
The court also granted a stay of execution on the judgment, thereby giving the federal government the opportunity to appeal the UK Arbitration Tribunal in the UK Court of Appeal.
The UK commercial court also approved the government's application for a stay of execution which will prevent the plaintiff, P&ID, from enforcing the tribunal's judgment while the case is heard on appeal before the Court of Appeal.
Nigeria's attorney-general and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who released details of the court proceedings, said: "I am pleased with today's development in the court and see this as a positive resolution that constitutes an important step in the government's efforts to defend itself in a fair and just process.
"We look forward to challenging the UK commercial court's recognition of the tribunal's decision in the UK Court of Appeal, uncovering P&ID's outrageous approach for what it is: a sham based on fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country," he said.
However, the stay of execution is subject to Nigeria's payment of $200million as security to the court pending the determination of the appeal.
Malami said that the government would exercise the right of appeal at the same time study the ruling of the court.
"We will study the court rulings, exercise the right of appeal and consider the legal options available at our disposal as it relates to the payment of $200million in view of the 60-day window stipulated by the court," he said.
Malami led seven lawyers to the UK to defend Nigeria against the fine. The federal government's argument is premised on the admission of guilt by the P&ID directors and the establishment of a case of fraud against the firm.
Members of the legal team included Akwiwu, S.K, Salam-Alada, Timi Balogun, Bradley Doline, Bala Tsanga, Rotimi Oyedepo, and Oyin Koleosho.
Before the reprieve yesterday, Nigeria had repeatedly declared that it would everything possible to stop the enforcement of the controversial judgment arising from a dubious gas purchase contract awarded to the by some Nigeria officials in 2010.
The solicitor-general and permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN), had in a statement assured Nigerians that the government would vigorously defend its rights to protect the people's assets around the world against the enforcement of the judgement.
"Nigeria intends to strongly avail itself of all defences customarily afforded to sovereign states under the United Kingdom Sovereign Immunity Act on any such enforcement actions," he said.