The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami has denied media reports that a United States District Court granted $6.59 billion arbitral judgment against Nigeria.
A default judgment is delivered when a party in a suit fails to defend his case.
Malami said in a statement signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, that no such award was made in favour of P&ID and against the federal government as reported.
The statement said, â€œThe ministry wishes to state categorically that no default judgment was entered against Nigeria in the enforcement proceedings by P & ID. The federal government through its foreign solicitors, Messrs. Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, has commenced the process of challenging and defending the enforcement proceedings.
â€œIt needs to be stated that what is being taunted as a default judgment was actually a default entry made by the Court Clerk.
â€œUnder the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a defendant has up to 60 days period to answer to a petition filed against it.
â€œWhere no response is entered for the defendant, the Court Clerk upon application by the petitioner makes a default entry, which in this case was made on June 5, 2018.
â€œIt is to be noted that under the FSIA, a default judgment cannot be entered against a foreign State like Nigeria unless the presiding judge determines so after the petitioner/claimant must have established its entitlement to a default judgment,â€ he said.
The AGF explained that a default judgment was judgment granted automatically by a foreign court.
He said the court still had to determine whether it had jurisdiction to hear the judgment enforcement suit against the foreign nation.
â€œBased on the presumption of sovereign immunity, the US District Court is still under obligation, despite default by a Foreign State, to determine whether the Foreign State is immune from the jurisdiction of the US Court under FSIA or whether the case before it falls within one of the recognised exceptions. Even where the court determines that it has jurisdiction, a default judgment will not be granted automatically or as a routine matter to be handled by a court clerk as this can only be done after a formal trial,â€ he added.