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Court orders service of contempt charge against four SANs over $418m Paris Club refund dispute

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ordered that the contempt charge motion against four Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) involved in the $418 million Paris Club refund suit be served on them through courier services.

The order for substituted service issued by Justice Inyang Ekwo followed complaints that the four senior lawyers have allegedly refused to personally receive the charge as required by law.

The four Senior Advocates are Sunday Ibrahim Ameh, Jubrin Okutepa, Garba Tetengi and Olumuyiwa Akinboro.

The contempt charge was initiated against them by a private company, Panic Alerts and its sponsor, George Uboh, who accused the lawyers of engaging in professional misconduct.

In the contempt charge, the senior advocates were alleged to have placed “Caveat Emptor” on the judgment of the Federal High Court which granted permission to President Muhammadu Buhari to deduct the $418 million from the financial allocations of the 36 state governments as payments for debt they incurred during the Paris Club refund contract.

The implications of the “Caveat Emptor”, according to the two applicants, was to impede the execution of the $418m judgment debt against the 36 States as their clients.

At Wednesday proceeding, counsel to George Uboh and Panic Alert, Emeka Okoro moved an ex-parte application which asked Justice Ekwo to order the contempt charge to be served on the senior lawyers through courier on the ground that they allegedly evaded personal service as required by law.

The aggrieved applicants asked the court for an order to serve the contempt charge on the lawyers through a nominated courier company and by pasting the same in their respective offices.

Justice Ekwo in a brief ruling on the ex-parte application ordered that the motion for contempt charge be served on the senior lawyers within seven days and fixed May 26 for the hearing of the motion.

One of the senior lawyers, Sunday Ibrahim Ameh had made frantic efforts to stop hearing of the ex-parte application on the ground that an appeal against the debt judgment itself had been lodged at the Court of Appeal and that the Federal High Court no longer have jurisdiction in respect of it.

Ameh further told the court that the records of proceedings have been transmitted to the Court of Appeal while the appeal itself has been entered in favour of the appellants (36 states) and urged the court not to do anything in respect of the matter.

However, Justice Ekwo proceeded with the ex-parte application and granted the requests of the two applicants.

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