News 19 Dec. 2019

Curtis Wins in London for Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria

December 13, 2019 – the Technology and Construction Court in London has allowed Curtis’ application for reconsideration of an earlier enforcement order. Application for the enforcement order will be adjourned until determination by the Supreme Court in Nigeria.

Curtis represented the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at the request of the Nigerian Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in defense of enforcement proceedings by AIC Limited at the Technology and Construction Courts (TCC) in London.

The dispute arose as result of a purported breach of a deed of lease granted by FAAN to AIC Ltd in February 1998 by which FAAN leased parcels of land at the Lagos international airport to AIC Ltd for a term of 50 years for the purposes of developing a flightpath hotel and a resort complex.

The resulting dispute was referred to arbitration and a Nigerian arbitration award was made in favor of AIC in 2010 for a principal sum of $48,124,000 with interest until the date of payment. The Award has now risen to around $160,000,000 as at today’s date.

Multiple proceedings were launched by both parties in Nigeria and the matter has now reached the Nigerian Supreme Court. AIC issued proceedings in the UK in January 2019, seeking an enforcement of the Award under the New-York Convention.

At the hearing in September 2019, the TCC agreed to adjourn the English proceedings pending the determination of the matter in Nigeria on the condition that FAAN provide a bank guarantee of $24,062,000.

It was after this hearing that Curtis was instructed, and quickly secured from the Court of Appeal a stay of the need to post a guarantee pending appeal.

After this stay expired, and faced with a significant lead time in obtaining the guarantee, Curtis requested an additional period to allow FAAN put the guarantee in place. AIC applied for permission to enforce the award and the court directed that both applications be heard together.

On Friday 6 December, FAAN, with considerable assistance from Curtis was able to put the guarantee in place, albeit two hours after the court hearing had concluded. The judge, Veronique Buehrlen QC had by that time given AIC permission to enforce the entire award in England.

AIC took immediate steps to call on the guarantee while Curtis filed a fresh application to the court for relief from sanctions and requested an urgent re-consideration of the orders of the court made at the 6th December hearing on the grounds of new evidence provided by FAAN.

Curtis argued that since the draft order of the court had not been sealed prior to FAAN putting in place the fresh evidence of the security, the court ought to exercise its discretion in favour of FAAN and re-consider its earlier order.

On Friday 13 December, the TCC agreed with Curtis and allowed Curtis’ application to re-consider the earlier order and also granted FAAN relief from sanctions. Attempts by AIC to call on the guarantee also drew a sharp rebuke from the court. AIC’s application to enforce the award will therefore remain adjourned until determination by the Supreme Court in Nigeria.

The Curtis team was led by London partner Timi Balogun, and included litigation partner Mark Handley.

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