Firm petitions Chief Justice of Nigeria over alleged reckless use of judicial power by Hon. Justice Aikawa

A leading multinational oil trading firm in the country, Petrocam Trading Nigeria Limited has petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria,  Hon. Justice Walter S. N. Onnoghen and National Judicial Council (NJC) over what it described as "perceived abuse and reckless use of judicial powers to oppress and cause damage" to its business interest by Hon. Justice R.M. Aikawa in the suit no. (FHC/L/CS/38/2018) instituted by Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.

The oil firm urged the Chief Justice and NJC to prevail on Justice Aikawa and transfer the suit from him to another Judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division.

Petrocam not too long ago slammed N6.75 suit on Union bank over an alleged negligence and breach of contract.

The counsel to Union Bank is a controversial Lawyer Ajibola Aribisala who was  barred from parading himself as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by the Legal Practitioners and Privileges Committee (LPPC) of the Nigeria Bar Association after a petition by Fidelity Bank Plc few years ago. The bank alleged that Mr. Aribisala charged it legal costs, for services rendered, which were excessive and in breach of Rules of Professional Conduct in Legal Profession.

In a petition written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, signed by the Managing Director of Petrocam Trading Nigeria Limited, Mr. Patrick Ilo, the oil firm states that "on the 27th of March, 2018 the Honorable Court, Per Justice Aikawa made ex-parte orders restraining access to our accounts in all Commercial Banks in Nigeria which among all other things was made pending the determination of the substantive suit and adjourned to the 9th of May, 2018 (a period of seven weeks) for mention."

"In view of this complaint which is already pending and other circumstances of this matter, which arose from the proceedings of the court on the 4th and 9th of May, 2018, we do not have any confidence in His Lordship, Hon. Justice R.M. Aikawa in continuing to be an unbiased umpire in this matter."

"We therefore humbly request that the said matter be withdrawn from His Lordship and transferred and/or reassigned to another judge of the Federal High Court , Lagos Division, for a fair and unbiased adjudication of this matter"

In a reply to Petrocam's petition, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Onnoghen acknowledged the receipt of the petition dated May 7th, 2018 and said action is being taken on it.

In a petition written to National Judicial Council (NJC), Petrocam states that; "we are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants in suit No: FHC/L/CS/383/2018 instituted by Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, arising from dispute over credit facilities."

"Prior to the institution of the action, we had instituted an action against Union Bank Plc at the State High Court and served them. Several weeks after receipt of out law suit, Union Bank through its counsel Ajibola Aribisala came to the Federal High Court to obtain ex-parte orders against us."

"My Lord, the 1st Defendant is Petrocam Trading Nigeria , a major importer of petroleum products into the country and supplier of NNPC also has solar powered retail outlets in Lekki and several other parts of the country. The 2nd defendant is our Managing Director while the 3rd defendant is the parent company based in South Africa."

"My Lord, against the above background, on the 18th of April, 2018, we received a call from our bankers that they have been served with the enrolment of an ex-parte order which effectively froze all our accounts in the bank

"We requested to have copies of the enrolment of order and when we got it, to our chagrin, it didn't freeze all our accounts in all the banks in Nigeria, it practically shut down our business. It was more of an ex-parte judgement than an order or better still a garnishee order."

''Sir, we are not disputing the powers of a High Court Judge to grant ex-parte orders in deserving situation, successive Chief Justice of Nigeria including your good self has cautioned against a reckless grant of such orders, more importantly when Defendants are available, visible and can be served with a motion on notice."

"From the foregoing Sir, it is clear that the intention of Judge is to cripple our business via the ex-parte orders. And as stated earlier, we have several solar powered petrol retail stations worth billions of naira all over the country (which can never be moved abroad) among several of our multi billion naira investment within the country."

"Further, the image of the country has been battered by the conduct of the Judge, because our foreign South Africa based parent company is involved and they have expressed their dismay at the kind of justice system we run in Nigeria."

"More importantly My Lord, the 1st and 2nd Defendants are based in Nigeria and have never had to operate outside the shores of Nigeria; one then wonder the basis of a mareva injunction made to last till the determination of the substantive suit."

" We are therefore imploring you sir to use your good office to investigate this matter for approximate disciplinary action against the judicial officer, to prevent a reoccurrence and further dent on the image of our Judiciary which Your Lordship has striven so hard to uplift.
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