ECOBANK APPEALS N72 BILLION HONEYWELL JUDGMENT
Ecobank Nigeria Limited has lodged an appeal against the ruling of the Federal High Court, Lagos, delivered by Hon. Justice M. Liman, in the N72 billion lawsuit brought against the bank by Honeywell Flour Mills Plc.
In its Notice of Appeal dated 19th July 2023, filed on the same date, Ecobank seeks to overturn the judgment delivered on 18th July 2023.
The bank is also seeking an Order from the Court of Appeal to uphold its Notice of Preliminary Objection, challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to preside over the matter.
Alternatively, Ecobank requests the Court of Appeal to dismiss Honeywell’s claim at the lower court, asserting that the evidence presented did not support the claim.
Alongside the Notice of Appeal, Ecobank filed a Motion on Notice to stay the execution of the lower court’s judgment and to prevent Honeywell or any party acting on their behalf from taking advantage of the ruling pending the appeal hearing.
The bank also seeks to restrain the Deputy Sheriff of the Federal High Court, bailiffs, and any other involved parties from enforcing the judgment.
The Bank filed several grounds of appeal, including, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter seeing that the court lacked the power to entertain a claim for damages based on an undertaking made by the Bank despite the judgment of the Supreme Court, which confirmed Honeywell’s indebtedness to Ecobank and directed Honeywell to settle its obligations. Ecobank maintains that this judgment by the Supreme Court nullifies the foundation of Honeywell’s current suit.
In its third Ground of Appeal, Ecobank contends that the judgment was delivered outside the constitutionally prescribed period of 90 days, resulting in a miscarriage of justice against the bank.
The trial concluded on 9th March 2021, and written addresses were adopted on 16th March 2022, while the judgment was delivered on 18th July 2023, more than two years after the trial’s conclusion.
Ecobank argues that the prolonged delay affected the court’s impression of the trial, leading to a judgment that does not align with the weight of evidence presented.
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had awarded N72.2 billion in damages to Honeywell Flour Mills Plc in a judgement delivered by Justice Liman on the flour milling company’s protracted legal battle against Ecobank Nigeria Limited.
On Tuesday, July 18, Liman brought to an end an aspect of the drawn-out legal tussle between both entities by ruling in favour of Honeywell Flour Mills. The company had sought N72.2 billion in damages from Ecobank for the harm caused by the bank’s freezing of its assets in 2015.
The legal dispute started when Ecobank and its lawyer Mr. Kunle Ogunba, SAN obtained ex-parte orders from the Federal High Court to freeze Honeywell Flour Mills’ assets, including its bank accounts, halting the company’s operations.
It was argued for Honeywell that the order caused it severe reputational and operational damage. For weeks, the business was unable to fulfil its obligations to stakeholders including inability to pay suppliers, process Letters of Credit, and collect payment from distributors.
Honeywell Flour Mills then applied for the discharge of the orders and the court varied the asset freezing ex-parte orders, allowing the company limited access to its accounts. In 2016, upon appeal, the Court of Appeal overturned the ex-parte orders, restoring Honeywell Flour Mills’ right to operate its accounts without restrictions. The Court of Appeal held that Ecobank’s request to freeze the assets should not have been granted in the first place. This was subsequently affirmed by the Supreme Court in July 2018.
After the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal judgement, Honeywell Flour Mills demanded Ecobank fulfil its undertaking to compensate the company for the loss suffered due to the ex-parte order. The company sought damages, filing a suit in excess of N72 billion against Ecobank.
Although Ecobank argued against the validity and technicality of the conditions, seeking a dismissal of the suit, the court held that the bank violated the law and caused Honeywell Flour Mills significant damage with the asset freeze. The judge, while giving his ruling, said: “The defendant’s arguments in this regard cannot stand. I have no hesitation in granting relief in favour of the plaintiff.”
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