$1m judgment debt: Decline stay appeal, firm urges court

A judgment creditor, Hydrocarbon Advisors Limited has asked the Court of Appeal in Lagos to refuse an application by a judgment debtor, Accugas Limited seeking to stay the execution of its $1,075,000 and N50million debt.

It made its objection in its written address argued by its counsel, Mr. Seni Adio, SAN, in opposition to the Accugas’ motion for stay of execution dated September 21, 2023.

Hydrocarbon Advisors Limited and FBN Capital Limited are the 1st and 2nd Respondents in Appeal No CA/L/CV/946/2023 while Accugas Limited is the Applicant/Appellant.

“The grounds contained in the Applicant’s Notice of Appeal do not raise substantial issues of law to be heard on the appeal, or at least such that are capable of swaying the mind of this court into granting the instant application.

“It is an attempt that the application is an attempt to prevent the 1st respondent from reaping the fruits of the judgment entered in its favour,” Adio said.

He added: “This court is respectfully urged to dismiss the instant Application with costs for lacking in merit.”

Nevertheless, the SAN offered that “In the event that this court is not inclined to refuse the instant application, this court is urged to order that the Applicant pay the Judgment Sum into an interest yielding bank account of this court under the authority of the Deputy Chief Registrar, pursuant to Order 4, Rule 6(1) of the Court of Appeal Rules 2021.”

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Accugas filed the appeal after a lower court held that it breached the agreement for professional services between it and Hydrocarbon Advisors dated October 26, 2017 by failing to pay Hydrocarbon Advisors its professional fees of $1million, plus statutorily applicable Value Added Tax (VAT) of 7.5 per cent.

Hydrocarbon Advisors was the claimant in that suit before Justice R. Olukolu at the Lagos State High Court, Osborne Foreshore marked LD/4637CMW/2022, while Accugas and FBN Capital were the defendants.

Justice Olukolu, on July 13, 2023, entered judgment in Hydrocarbon Advisors’ favour and against the defendants “severally and jointly” in several terms, including:

“An order is hereby granted to the Claimant, the sum of $1million as professional fees for its role as Financial Advisor to the 1st and 2nd defendants.

“An order is hereby granted that the sum of $75,000 as value added tax of 7.5 percent of its professional fees be paid directly by the defendants to the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service.

“An order is hereby granted granting the claimant the sum of N50million as damages for the 1st defendant’s breach of contract.”

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Dissatisfied, Accugas challenged the judgment at the appellate court.

It also filed a motion on notice for stay of execution, arguing, among others, that “the applicant’s operations and its employees will be adversely affected if the judgment creditor is allowed to execute this judgment before the determination of the pending appeal.”

But Hydrocarbon Advisors, through Adio, opposed the prayer for a stay. It also attached a counter-affidavit comprising 11 paragraphs, deposed to by its founder and Managing Director, Mr. Hakeem Adeseji.

Adio narrowed the issue to and asked the court to determine “Whether the Applicant (Accugas) has presented special, exceptional and compelling grounds to warrant the granting of a stay.”

The lawyer argued that it had not.

He urged the court not to exercise its discretion in the applicant’s favour, rather that the application ought to be refused.

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