Court Rules Nigerian Property in London Immune from Enforcement in Dispute with Israeli Company

Citation: [2016] EWHC 1761 (Comm)
Judgment on


In the case of L R Avionics Technologies Ltd v The Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor [2016] EWHC 1761 (Comm), the Court had to determine whether property owned by the State of Nigeria and leased to a private company for the purpose of carrying out consular services was immune from enforcement of a judgment or arbitration award under the State Immunity Act 1978. This case presented critical issues about state immunity, the enforcement of international arbitration awards, and what constitutes commercial use of property under UK law.

Key Facts

L R Avionics Technologies Ltd (the Claimant), an Israeli company, had entered into a contract with the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the Defendant) for the supply of military equipment, which was subsequently arbitrated in Nigeria, yielding an award in the Claimant’s favor. When the Defendant did not comply with the award, the Claimant sought to enforce the award in England, eventually obtaining a final charging order on the Defendant’s property at 56/57 Fleet Street in London. The property, used by Online Integrated Solutions Ltd (OIS) to provide visa and passport services, was argued by the Defendants to be immune from execution based on state immunity.

Several legal principles underpin the ruling in this case:

  1. State Immunity Act 1978: The key statute in this dispute lays down principles regarding state immunity from jurisdiction and enforcement. Crucial sections referenced include Section 9, which removes immunity in relation to proceedings that “relate to the arbitration”, and Section 13, which restricts enforcement against “property of a state” unless it is used for commercial purposes.

  2. Enforcement of Arbitration Awards: The Court confirmed that enforcing an arbitration award against a state falls within proceedings that “relate to the arbitration” (Svenska Petroleum Exploration AB v Government of the Republic of Lithuania [2006] EWCA Civ 1529).

  3. Commercial Use of Property: The Court analyzed whether the property in question was being used for commercial purposes, which would lift its immunity from enforcement under Section 13(4) of the State Immunity Act 1978, and referred to the Supreme Court’s decision in SerVaas Inc v Rafidain Bank [2012] UKSC 40.

  4. Consular Activities: The Court included an interpretation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which considers visa and passport processing as consular functions not amounting to commercial use.


The Court found that:

  • The Claimant could enforce the arbitration award in England, as such proceedings relate to the arbitration per Section 9(1) of the State Immunity Act.

  • In relation to enforcement of the Nigerian judgment, the award was recognized and consequently enforceable under Section 9 of the Administration of Justice Act 1920 as it related to the arbitration proceedings.

  • The Fleet Street property was being used for consular services, not commercial purposes, and therefore retained immunity from execution. The outsourcing of these services to OIS did not alter the consular nature of the activities, nor did the collection of fees transform these actions into commercial transactions.

  • Procedural defects occurred in the proceedings, but these were not addressed in depth as they would not alter the outcome due to the established immunity.

Consequently, the Court set aside the final charging orders against the Fleet Street property.


In L R Avionics Technologies Ltd v The Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor, the High Court provided clarity on the application of the State Immunity Act, stating that the Defendant state’s property used for consular activities remained immune from the enforcement of judgments or arbitration awards, even when those activities were outsourced to a private entity. This case reiterates the UK’s adherence to international law principles concerning state immunity, while simultaneously confirming the enforceability of international arbitration awards against states which lack immunity under certain provisions of the Act.