LONDON, Sept 26 – A UK judge on Thursday gave Nigeria permission to seek to overturn a ruling that would have allowed a private firm to try to seize more than $9 billion in assets from the West African country.
The judge also granted Nigeria’s request for a stay on any asset seizures while its legal challenge is pending, but ordered it to pay $200 million to the court within 60 days to ensure the stay.
The original decision on Aug. 16 converted an arbitration award held by firm Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) to a legal judgment, which would allow the British Virgin Islands-based firm to try to seize international assets.
Nigeria’s appeal of this decision, called a “set-aside”, would need to prove there was an error in the ruling.
During Thursday’s proceedings, lawyers representing Nigeria said that the judgment was flawed primarily due to its acceptance that England was the proper seat of the arbitration.
Harry Mantovu QC argued on behalf of Nigeria that the courts, not the arbitration tribunal, should determine this, and that the August ruling ignored Nigeria’s successful application to have the award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos.
P&ID did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday’s decision.
The judge’s order said that if Nigeria does not put the $200 million into a court account within 60 days – the minimum amount of time that Mantovu said it would take Nigeria raise the funds from capital markets or internal sources – the stay on seizures would be lifted.