An American contractor has approached a federal court in Lagos seeking a relisting of a suit in which he obtained judgment awarding him N6.6 billion in 2000.
Montia Rice, who runs a construction company, said he was contracted by some Nigerians to execute what turned out to be a phantom project in Nigeria.
After being convinced to finance the project, Mr. Rice said he transferred the funds from his Barclay Bank UK account to the defendants through the defunct Standard Trust Bank now United Bank of Africa (UBA).
Upon discovering he had been duped, the American sued the defendants who did not enter appearance to defend the suit.
He listed the defendants as Fred Ajudua, Jude Okwudili, Dr. Annuni, Sam Opara, Mamo Feda, and Wags Digiteme.
On July 28, 2000, Dan Abutu, the judge, entered judgment for the plaintiff against the defendants jointly and severally in the sum of $6,456,848.61 (about N1, 969,331,933.39) as well as “interlocutory judgment” in the sum of $15,364,380 (about N4, 686,119,498.58).
However, before the judgment could be enforced, the lawyer representing Mr. Rice in Nigeria, Anthony Okocha, died.
Mr. Rice said he fled the country after he began receiving threats to his life.
But 17 years later, and through a new attorney, Ayodele Akindele, Mr. Rice has now approached the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court to relist the suit into the general cause list to enable him enforce the judgment and recover his money.
He is also praying for leave to apply for the issuance of writ of execution of the judgment delivered by Mr. Abutu.
In a supporting affidavit, Mr. Akindele said no further steps were taken since the judgment, adding that following the death of Mr. Rice’s former attorney, “there had been lack of communications.”
“The Honourable Court only set aside the judgment delivered against the first defendant while both final and interlocutory judgments delivered against the second to seventh defendants are still subsisting,” Mr. Akindele added.
When the case came up before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola, Mr. Akindele, represented by Tijani Ishola, told the court about the pending application.
The judge asked the lawyer why they had waited for 17 years after the judgement was delivered before coming for enforcement.
The lawyer responded that his client had unsuccessfully sought to enforce the judgment but had to run for his life after receiving several threats to his life, adding that his then lawyer died under “mysterious” circumstances.
The plaintiff also prayed for an extension of time within which to apply to take further steps in compliance with the judgment, and an order allowing Rice to take the steps towards recovering the sum.
Justice Olatoregun-Ishola adjourned until March 8 for hearing.