File picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg – Prominent Nigerian attorney Victor Obaika, who owns a professional stock car racing team in the US, is taking South Africa's FirstRand Group to court over a contractual dispute worth millions of US dollars.

Obaika alleges that the South African financial services provider, which also operates in Nigeria, breached trademark and intellectual property rights.

Speaking exclusively to the African News Agency (ANA) from the US, the attorney said he was taking FirstRand and its sister companies – including RMB - to court.

He has filed papers in the Federal High Court in Lagos in Nigeria in an effort to compel the South African financial services group to pay outstanding professional legal fees and damages related to the alleged trademark/intellectual property violations.

Obaika is suing FirstRand and its affiliates for a total of US $100 million (about R1.3 billion).

Asked if the group was aware of the lawsuit, RMB responded saying: “Rand Merchant Bank confirms that proceedings have been instituted by Mr Obaika against various entities and individuals. Those proceedings will be defended. We have been advised that the proceedings are factually and legally bereft of merit.”

Papers filed at the Federal High Court indicate that Obaika is suing 24 defendants, including Firstrand Group, First National Bank, RMB, Wesbank, Ashburton Investments, RMB Corvest, RMB Nigeria, RMB Westport, Global Outdoor Systems Nigeria Ltd and Global Outdoor Advertising Nigeria Ltd.

He is also taking legal action against individuals who are all the signatories of the FirstRand Code of Ethics, the CEOs of the FirstRand Group and RMB, Wesbank, FNB and Ashburton Investments.

All the companies being sued are interlinked within the FirstRand hierarchy, with FirstRand Group being at the top.

The Nigerian attorney said his legal action relates to unpaid bills for work he says he did for companies linked to FirstRand.

Obaika said he has also petitioned the Nigerian top cop, the Inspector General of Police, in respect of the two alleged criminal violations against the South African billboard companies.

“I have joined the Inspector General of Police as a party in the enlarged lawsuit seeking an order of Mandamus to compel him to perform his administrative duty to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators,” said the renowned Nigerian attorney.

He said he has reported the alleged civil and criminal infractions to FirstRand and said he requested the group to “call their entities to order”.

He said the response from Werksmans Attorneys in South Africa, representing FirstRand, was a blanket denial of the allegations without any substantive response to any of the issues raised.