HONEYWELL, ECOBANK legal tussle takes another dimension
Ecobank Nigeria Limited has appealed a ruling by Justice Jude Dagat of the Federal High Court in Lagos striking out its winding-up petition against Honeywell Group Limited and its sister company Anchorage Leisures Limited.
Justice Dagat delivered the ruling on Monday on the basis that Ecobank’s suit was an abuse of court process.
But, Ecobank, through its lawyer Kunle Ogunba (SAN), has lodged two appeals at the Court of Appeal in Lagos against the companies on seven grounds each.
The bank is praying the court to set aside Justice Dagat’s consolidated ruling striking out the petition, as well as an order directing the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to re-assign the petition to another judge for hearing.
Ecobank also filed a motion for an order of injunction restraining Honeywell and Anchorage or their agents from taking advantage of Justice Dagat’s ruling as it relates to their funds of all the banks in Nigeria pending the determination of the appeal.
The appellant, in a June 28 letter to Justice Dagat, urged the court to “urgently assign a date for hearing of the duly filed injunction in the interest of justice and in pursuance of the abiding tenet to always hold the scale of justice evenly and balanced between contending parties.”
Ecobank filed the winding-up petition against Honeywell Group’s inability to pay an alleged debt to the tune of N5.5billion.
But the companies filed motion on notice seeking to strike out the petition, following which the court ruled in the companies’ favour.
Ecobank is praying the appellate court to allow its appeal because Justice Dagat erred in law on several grounds.
In one of the grounds, it said the judge occasioned a gross miscarriage of justice and erred in law when it struck out the winding-up petition on the ground that the indebtedness is disputed.
“Learned trial judge occasioned a gross miscarriage of justice by striking out the appellant’s petition on grounds of an alleged repayment made outside contract and on terms vehemently opposed by the appellant,” the bank said.
Ecobank said the judge also erred in holding that its petition amounted to an abuse of court process because of a suit by the companies pending before Justice Mohammed Idris of the same court.
“The exercise of a right to commence a fresh action rather than counter-claim in a previously commenced action by an adversary is not an abuse of court process,” the bank said.
The appellant said Justice Dagat also erred by holding that it did not observe all preconditions in commencing the suit because “there is no precondition to be fulfilled before a party can exercise his constitutional right of recourse to court.”
The bank added: “Rights guaranteed by the Constitution are inalienable, fundamental and ranks higher to all statutory provisions including the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act.”