Barristers & Solicitors
Judge transfers $187,000 debt case state high court

The Federal High Court in Lagos has transferred to the Lagos State High Court a suit by Sparrow Global Logistics & Energy Services Ltd seeking to recover a disputed $187, 000 debt from a foreign-owned firm, Niger Star 7 Ltd.

Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa made the order after hearing arguments from Kolawole Uzamot, who led Chioma Ndukwu for the plaintiff/applicant and Mrs Funke Agbor (SAN) for the defendant.

The judge, on November 1, granted a Mareva injunction restraining the defendant or its agents from dissipating its financial assets of $170,000 or its naira equivalent pending the determination of the suit marked FHC/L/CD/2189/2023.

The injunction restrained the defendant’s bankers from releasing any part of the money until the matter is decided.

He adjourned till December 6 for a report of compliance by the banks.

The plaintiff, in its statement of claim, stated that the $187,000 comprises $172,000 being its “cumulative consultancy fee for negotiating and processing a reduced value of the Cabotage bills on the defendant’s assets MV ‘SEVEN INAGHA’, MV ‘SEVEN ANTARES’, MV ‘NIGERSTAR 7 ADABA, CB CARGO BARGE 32, CB CARGO BARGE 33, and CB CARGO BARGE 34 respectively”.

It added that the sum of $17,200 is “10 per cent of the plaintiff’s consultancy fee and compensation claimed as operational costs towards meeting the plaintiff’s obligation as assigned by the defendant) as solicitors’ recovery fee”. 

The plaintiff prayed for “general damages in the sum of N5million and costs of action in the sum of N1 million.”

The plaintiff averred: “Despite the numerous reminders for payments on the cabotage bills as well as the plaintiff’s consultancy fees, the defendant did not yield. Defendant’s attitude to payments rendered the plaintiff concerned and the plaintiff vented her concerns in an email dated 14 September 2023.”

It said it wrote emails to the defendant expressing concerns “over the defendant’s repeated attitude of delaying payments…”

At the resumption of proceedings, the plaintiff’s counsel Uzamot applied that all banks be discharged except Zenith Bank which had deposed to an affidavit stating that the defendant maintained an account with her, and the sum of $187, 000 had been preserved in compliance with the court order. 

Justice Allagoa granted the application as prayed.

The judge then heard the defendant’s motion dated November 21 to set aside the Mareva Order and another order dismissing the suit for lack of jurisdiction. 

Agbor said the application was on the ground that the disputes between the parties emanated from the consultancy agreement between them, and as such being solely contractual, was subject to the jurisdiction of the state high court. 

But the plaintiff’s counsel noted that by the discharge order on other banks, the defendant would be relieved and the distress complained of would be no more.

Uzamot contended that the defendant was a foreign-owned firm and by the application for Bill of Sale and Consent to Sell, the defendant was seeking to dispose of its fleet, unwind its business and repatriate its business. 

He added that if the order were discharged, the plaintiff would be exposed to liabilities to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), urging the court not to discharge the order.

In the alternative, he prayed the court to transfer the case to the state high court.

Justice Allagoa upheld the plaintiff’s prayer. 

He also vacated all orders previously made in the suit on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to make same.