Alleged ₦156bn Indebtedness: Court Adjourns Rulings Between UBA, Stallion Nigeria

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday, suspended the reading of two rulings in an alleged ₦156bn debt recovery suit following a letter by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Wahab Shittu, asking the Chief Judge to transfer the case.

Justice Akintayo Aluko noted that the rulings over the two different applications were ready and scheduled to be delivered same Friday, but noted that he was constrained not to proceed, pending the Chief Judge’s decision on Shittu’s letter.

Parties in the suit are United Bank of Africa (UBA) as Plaintiff, represented in the suit by Mr. Temilolu Adamolekun, against Stallion Nigeria Limited and its subsidiaries as defendants. Shittu is counsel to some of the defendants,

In the suit, UBA is seeking to recover an alleged sum of ₦156bn from Stallion Nigeria Limited, and has appointed a Receiver over some mortgaged properties of Stallion Nigeria Limited and its subsidiaries in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano, in line with the mortgage deeds.

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At the last sitting of the court, Adamolekun announced an appearance for UBA, but Stallion was represented by a counsel from Shittu’s chambers, owing to the absence of the Senior Advocate himself, Wahab Shittu.

Justice Aluko informed the parties that he had been notified by the Chief Judge, that Shittu had written a letter asking that the case be transferred from his court.

The judge explained that Shittu had made certain allegations against the court, suggesting that it had been delaying the case with unwarranted adjournments. This allegation, the judge said was entirely false.

Lawyers who were present in court including Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana and the prosecution counsel, Adamolekun expressed shock over the incident. Some even confirmed that contrary to the falsehood in Shittu’s letter, the matter had enjoyed expeditious hearings.

Justice Aluko also noted that the applications which were last heard include an application for a stay of proceedings in the matter, which must first be taken before hearing the substantive Originating Summons.

He said: “Rulings in these two applications are ready to be delivered, however, counsel to the 1st, 2nd, 5th to 11th defendants, in the person of Wahab Shittu SAN, had written a letter, for the transfer of the case, to my Chief Judge, alleging delay, while citing unwarranted adjournments in this case.

“Following Wahab Shittu SAN’s letter for transfer of this case, dated 30th day of May 2024, written to my Chief Judge, I received a directive dated the 31st day of May, 2024, from my Chief Judge on the letter wherein my Chief Judge requested for my comment on the allegations, which I have submitted”.

“The two rulings slated for today are ready, however, I cannot go against the directive of my Chief Judge which directed me to stay further action pending his decision on the matter of the letter for transfer written to him by Shittu SAN”.

“I only need to add that the allegations of Wahab Shittu SAN that the hearing of this substantive matter has been delayed because of unwarranted delays or adjournment, is not true.”

The judge noted that the case commenced before his court on October 24, 2023.

Justice Aluko added: “It will then make this the 10th sitting over the case, meaning that apart from today, I have sat over this case for not less than nine times. I have delivered nothing less than seven rulings on contentious applications. On the last adjourned date, I heard two contentious Applications; over which rulings are slated for today”.

“The said rulings are ready to be delivered, but proceedings have now been stalled by the letter written by Wahab Shittu SAN, therefore I cannot go on with the two rulings, because I have to wait for the decision of my Chief Judge”

Expressing shock at the letter, Adamolekun told the court that Shittu’s approach to communication with the court, without copying other lawyers in the matter is contrary to the rules of professional conduct.

He said: “I also want to express my surprise at the development. First of all, I know that the rules of professional conduct forbid where a lawyer in an ongoing matter would communicate whether with the court sitting over the matter or the CJ (in respect of the matter), without copying the lawyer on the other side. Specifically, I’m going to refer to Rules 31(5) and 34 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. So, my Lord, I’m surprised that this is coming from a Learned Senior Advocate”.

“We don’t have a choice. We have to wait. As for the allegations, if we had been copied, we would have had the opportunity to counter the allegation, that’s what is called fairness. We would have responded to that petition and the CJ would have had the opportunity also to look at things from both sides”.

“I know of ex-parte applications, but I’ve never heard of an ex-parte letter. It is unfortunate and embarrassing and I wish he was here himself.”

Adamolekun added that: “Mr Shittu’s action has now delayed the matter, which was the same thing he alleged.”

Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, who spoke as Amicus Curae (friend of the court), also expressed shock at the allegation raised in Shittu’s letter and the approach. He promised to intervene and take it up with his leaned senior colleague.

Falana said: “Without any attempt to bring the hand of the clock back, I’m going to take this up with my Learned brother Silk, W. K. Shittu SAN, because I’ve never witnessed an incident where this court adjourned a matter where the lawyers are ready to go on. I’ve never witnessed it. There are judges that do it, but certainly not Your Lordship.

“So, for that reason, I’m going to take this up with my Learned friend and ensure that the proper thing is done. I’m very grateful sir.”

Responding to submissions of all counsel, Justice Aluko said: “For the court to await the decision of the Honourable Chief Judge on the letter, this case is hereby adjourned till the 19th day of July, 2024.

The 1st to 4th plaintiffs/applicants in the suit are UBA Plc, UBA Cameroon SA, Cote D’Ivoire SA and Romeo Ese Michael.

The 1st to 11th defendants/respondents are Stallion Nigeria Limited (In Receivership), Von Automobile Nigeria Limited, Popular Farms And Mills Limited, Havana Nigeria Limited.

The other defendants are KRBL Food Industries Limited, Qingqi Motorcycle Manufacturing Limited, Stallion Auto Keke Limited, Stallion Motors Limited, The Honda Place Limited, Yokohama Construction Limited and Mr. Sunil Vaswani.



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