A U.S.-based Nigerian businessman, Ted Iseghohi-Edwards, is initiating legal steps to seize Nigerian assets in America after the federal government reneged on its agreement to pay a $159 million debt, Peoples Gazette claims, based on court filings.
Nigeria’s government, attorney-general and minister of justice, and Debt Management Office (DMO) were listed as the first, second and third defendants in the suit filed at the United District Court for the District of Columbia on April 24.
At issue was the failure of the federal government to honour the first tranche of $159 million promissory note due for payment on October 15, 2022.
Although the plaintiff said the debt was money owed him for “legal fees”, it is unclear what type of legal services he rendered to the federal government to have amassed such humongous debt of $159 million payable every October 15 from 2022 through to 2031.
On September 21, 2021, the debt management office issued 10 promissory notes to Mr Iseghohi-Edwards with a face value of $159 million each at six per cent interest rate, bringing the total debt to $164 million.
The first promissory note was due for maturity on October 15, 2022, according to a statement of claim made by the plaintiff.
“The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by this Promissory Note, which is governed by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, hereby unconditionally and irrevocably promises to pay to the order of TED ISEGHOHI EDWARDS the sum of FIFTEEN MILLION, NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ONLY on the 15th day of October 20 (Maturity Date”),” reads the note signed by finance minister and referenced FGN/PN/JD/C.A/FX/2021/05A on September 21, 2021.
“This Promissory Note is backed by the full faith and credit of the Federal Government of Nigeria and charged upon the general assets of Nigeria,” the note added.
As it stands, the plaintiff has the right to go after Nigeria’s assets in the U.S. based on the clause that says the promissory note is “charged upon the general assets of Nigeria.”
In another letter signed by Oladele Afolabi, director, portfolio management department of the debt office, on October 5, 2022, Mr Iseghohi-Edwards was asked to tender the original copy of the promissory note for redemption and payment.
But despite submitting all the required documents nine months ago, the debt office has neither paid the debt nor given any explanation for the non-payment.
The plaintiff’s complaints run counter to the DMO’s boasts that it has built a solid reputation for upholding all of its financial commitments and isn’t known for backing out of its pledges after the debt office redeemed a $500 million Eurobond last month.
Chinenye Onu, DMO spokesperson, did not immediately respond to enquiry for comments on the matter.
Ted Iseghohi-Edwards is not new to big mony. It may be recalled that on May 18, 2015, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, ordered the Guaranteed Trust Bank Plc to refund N5.3bn illegally withdrawn from the account of one its customers, Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards.
Justice Valentine Ashi in his judgment ordered that the N5.3bn should attract 10 per cent interest from Monday, when judgment was delivered, till the time the money was paid back to the owner.
The court also ordered that the money should attract another 21 per cent interest from December 12, 2014 when GTB illegally withdrew the money, until the fund was eventually paid back to Edwards.
The judge, while reviewing the case, in his judgment held that the bank did not have any defence to its action of the withdrawal of the total sum of N5,240,516,186.21 from the customer’s account and thereby ordered the bank to pay the money to the owner through his Zenith Bank Plc account.
Edward, a lawyer of Edwards and Partners Law Firm, had initiated the suit, FCT/HC/CV/939/2015, in January 2015 following the alleged illegal withdrawal of the money on December 12, 2014.
The money was paid into the plaintiff’s law firm’s account with the GTB on January 2, 2014 by the Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla.
The money was said to be for the settlement of a judgment got by his clients, Impecca Services Limited and His Royal Highness, Eze Ezekwo, against the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, as cost of consultancy services they rendered to the 774 local governments.
Also, in a 10-page suit Civil Action No.18-11133-FDS filed at the United States District Court District of Massachusetts and dated December 18, 2018, Iseghohi-Edwards sought $318 million in contingency fees that he contends were awarded by the Federal High Court for representing local Nigerian governments in a suit against the
federal government of Nigeria.
According to the complaint, on June 11, 2013, a consultancy company and 235 local Nigerian governments filed an action in the Federal High Court of Nigeria to recover money
allegedly owed to them by the federal government of Nigeria.
Iseghohi-Edwards alleged that he provided legal consultation to the local governments in that suit. On December 13, 2013, the Federal High Court issued a judgment in favor of the company and local governments for approximately $3.18 billion.
On July 4, 2015, Iseghohi-Edwards filed an action in the Federal High Court against the
Incorporated Trustees of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria. He sought to recover a ten percent “contingency fee” he contended he was owed for the legal work he had performed for the local governments as part of their 2013 case.
On October 30, 2015, the Federal High Court issued him a judgment for approximately $3.18 million. The judgment also provided that he was “entitled to be paid . . . 10% of any recovery made and or of proceeds from any source whatsoever of the  Judgment.”
On November 18, 2015, Iseghohi-Edwards brought an action seeking to recover the ten percent ($3.18 million) from the Central Bank of Nigeria. On October 3, 2016, the Federal
High Court issued an order directing the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay him that amount.
On October 28, 2016, Iseghohi-Edwards filed an action in the Federal High Court against the Central Bank of Nigeria, the federal government of Nigeria, and nine entities and officials of the federal government.
Among other things, the suit sought:
(1) a declaration that, by virtue of the Federal High Court’s 2013 decision, the Central Bank of Nigeria was not to “disburse any sum of money to anyone . . . without first deducting and paying . . . $318 million . . . to Edwards,” and
(2) “an order directing the Central Bank of Nigeria to deduct and pay . . . $318 million to Iseghohi-Edwards” pursuant to the Federal High Court’s 2016 decision.