The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has dismissed an appeal brought by Globacom Limited to upturn a N2, 033,561,222.53 billion arbitral award made against it by Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court.

In dismissing Globacom’s appeal, the panel of jurists led by Justice J. S. Ikyegh were unanimous that the appeal lacked merit and ought to be dismissed. Others jurists on the panel were Justice I. B. Gafai and Justice Ebiowei Tobi.

In his lead judgment, Justice Gafai affirmed the ruling of Justice Liman and equally resolved all the issues in favor of the respondents.

In his ruling delivered on November 29, 2019 in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/857/19, Justice Liman dismissed the Globacom’s motion seeking to set aside the lower court’s earlier garnishee proceedings.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, Globacom in its Notice of Appeal marked CA/LAG/CV/1385/2019, filed on December 9, 2019, but deemed properly filed on June 30, 2021, prayed the court to allow the appeal and set aside the ruling of the lower court.

Listed as respondents in the appeal were MTN Communications Limited; Sterling Bank Plc; First Bank Plc; Zenith Bank Plc; First City Monument Bank Plc; Wema Bank Plc; Polaris Bank Plc; Diamond Bank Plc; Heritage Bank Plc; Guaranty Trust Bank Plc; Stanbic-Ibtc Nigeria Plc; Standard Chartered Bank Plc and Keystone Bank Plc.

The Appellant argued that the trial Judge erred in law when he held that multiple garnishee proceedings can be pursued concurrently by MTN Communications Limited (1st Respondent) against the Appellant in respect of the arbitral Award obtained against the Appellant.

Globacom further argued that the trial judge erred in law and violated its right to a fair hearing when he dismissed its motion dated July 29, 2019, but filed July 30, 2019, without considering all the legal issues raised by it in the motion.

It argued that the application to enforce the arbitral award was filed on 22nd May 2019 while the Order for the enforcement of the award was made on July 19, 2019, arguing that the court below had no jurisdiction to entertain the application at the time it granted leave to the 1st Respondent to enforce the award.

Globacom also argued that by Section 8(I)(d) of the Limitation Law of Lagos State, MTN (first respondent) had six years to apply to the court for the enforcement of the award, submitting that more than 10 years had passed after the award was published before the application for its enforcement was made and granted.

TOP COURT NEWS reports that Globacom had argued that the order made on July 19, 2019, for the enforcement of the award was therefore made without jurisdiction, and as such, was null and void.

However, in his lead judgment delivered on June 23, 2023, Justice Gafai affirmed the ruling of the lower Court and awarded a cost of N2 million against the Appellant.

The court held that “The hallmark of any garnishee proceeding is twofold: the expeditious attachment of funds belonging to a Judgment debtor in the custody of a third party and the satisfaction of the Judgment sum wherefrom in favor of the Judgment Creditor. It is recognised that the Judgment debtor will become recalcitrant and evasive in satisfying the Judgment sum: which is the reason behind the relevant provisions.

“Sections 83 to 92 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act as well as those in the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules, the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, and the various State High Court Rules to compel a recalcitrant Judgment debtor through a civil process, to comply with a Judgment Order.

“It is indeed even more deserving against a Judgment debtor who saw no reason to appeal against the Judgment and simply ignored the Judgment as if it never was. An adage has it: a drastic situation calls for a drastic solution; which is the reason for the enactment of special statutory provisions and Rules exclusively for the enforcement of judgments by garnishee proceedings.

“It is important to contextualize the Appellant’s arguments on the alleged abusive nature of the 1st Respondent’s latter garnishee proceedings which the Appellant prefers to call “the Lagos Suit” in the light of the peculiar nature of garnishee proceedings.

“As explained earlier, there is no provision in the Sheriff and Civil Process Act or the two applicable Rules referred earlier herein which outlaws a second or another garnishee proceeding if the earlier one failed to satisfy the Judgment sum.

“The recurring argument by the Appellant’s learned counsel that the latter garnishee proceedings were commenced during the pendency of the earlier one is, with due respect, simply oblivious or in total disregard of the legal reality that the proceedings for the Order Nisi before the earlier Court had practically come to an end by the Court’s grant of the Order Nisi and so what was adjourned sine die by that Court was the second stage of the proceedings for an Order Absolute.

“Sadly for the first respondent, the Order Nisi made in its favor by the earlier Court turned out to be very unsatisfactory to the first respondent because out of the total sum of N856, 829, 599.69k (Eight Hundred and Fifty-Six Million, Eight Hundred and Twenty-Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine Naira, Sixty Nine kobo) representing the debt recoverable under the Arbitral Award, only the sum of N39,923,557.05k (Thirty-Nine Million, Nine Hundred and Twenty-Three Thousand Five Hundred and Fifty-Seven Naira, Five kobo) was disclosed by the garnishee banks in Abuja: leaving a whopping balance of N816,906,002.64k (Eight Hundred and Sixteen Million, Nine Hundred and Six Thousand, Two Naira and Sixty Four kobo) which was a far cry from satisfying the Award sum.

“It is noteworthy here that at the time the first respondent commenced the second garnishee proceedings, the Appellant had not as yet, as the Record shows, filed an Appeal against the Order Nisi by the Abuja Court. I agree with the learned counsel for the Respondent that the earlier Suit was already conclusive on the funds attached from the Judgment Debtor’s bank accounts.

“It is also striking that the Reliefs sought in both Suits are in reality different contrary to the argument of the Appellant. The latter garnishee proceedings were for the unattached balance of the Award sum and post Judgment interest totaling N2,033,561,222.53k (Two billion, Thirty Three Million, Five Hundred and Sixty One Thousand, Two Hundred and Twenty Two Naira, Forty Three kobo).

“I do not, with respect, agree also with the learned counsel for the Appellant’s argument that there is the risk of the Appellant’s funds garnished more than the Judgment debt. Any such fears, real or imagined, are easily allayed by the protective provisions of Order 8 Rules 5 (1) (b) of the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules. In any case, there is nothing in the Record to warrant such fear.

“If the Appellant is alarmed or outraged by the post Judgment interest claimed by the 1st Respondent, it may appear that it has forgotten the unappealed Panel Orders listed as numbers 5 and 6 in the Award that the Claimant shall not receive any sum as general damages in this matter. And that Award must be paid within 30 days from the date of the ruling. Upon failure, interest will be calculated on all due payments at NIBOR rates as Specified in the Interconnect agreement under Section 6.7 and 6.9.”

“All the issues having thus been resolved against the Appellant, this Appeal ends as one without merit and is accordingly dismissed. The Ruling of the lower Court is affirmed. I award a cost of two million naira against the Appellant.”

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