Default Judgement Set Aside in Nigerian Action

The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta set aside a default judgment of over $90 million against the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on March 13, 2003.

The claim began on March 15, 2000, by Alexander Gibb on behalf of a class of plaintiffs who had invested in Alberta-based East West Commodities Ltd. East West Commodities allegedly supplied generators and other heavy equipment to the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. The plaintiff group claimed that East West Commodities had a bona fide contract, while the defendants submitted that no contract ever existed and that it was all part of a West African advance-fee fraud scheme. On July 5, the plaintiff group obtained default judgment against the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the CBN in an amount in excess of $90 million. Two and a half years later, the bank moved to set aside the default judgment. Justice Ernest Hutchinson set aside the default judgment as a nullity on the grounds that it had been improperly obtained as the master who granted the default judgement lacked jurisdiction. The judge further found that “the Plaintiff has never seen a copy of the alleged contract, nor has there ever been a direct link or connection between the Plaintiff and the contract or its performance or to any of the events described in his statement of claim”. The plaintiff group has appealed.

The bank was represented by Tristram Mallett, Colin Feasby and Andrea Laing of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Calgary. The plaintiff group has been represented in these proceedings by Gabor Zinner of Zinner & Sara in Calgary; Jeff Thom, Q.C., of Miller Thomson LLP; and Dale Fedorchuk and Gerald Chipeur of Chipeur Advocates LLP in Calgary.