BusinessLegal/Judiciary

GTBank-Innoson war: Innoson Motors floored

Reprieve came the way of Guaranty Trust Bank after the Supreme Court of Nigeria threw into the wind its earlier decision which dismissed an appeal by the new generation bank against a N2.4bn judgment given in favour of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

In a judgment handed down last Friday by a five-member panel of the court presided over by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the Supreme Court declared that it erred when, in a ruling on February 27, 2019, it erroneously dismissed the appeal marked: SC/694/2014 filed by GTBank.

According to the lead judgment written by Justice Tijani Abubakar, but read on Friday by Justice Abdu Aboki, the Supreme Court posited that it was misled by its Registry, which failed to promptly bring to the notice of the panel that it sat on the case on February 27, 2019, and that GTBank had already filed its appellant’s brief of argument.

It would be recalled that the judgment was on an application by GTB seeking the re-listing of the appeal because it was wrongly dismissed.

The apex court equally asserted that the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, being notified of the existence of the appellant’s brief of argument, would not have given the ruling which dismissed GTBank’s appeal on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.

In hinging on Order 8 Rules 16 of the Supreme Court’s Rules, Justice Abubakar, in the lead judgment, held that the apex court has the power to set aside its decision in certain circumstances, like any other court.

The judge added that such circumstances include where there is any reason to do so, such as where any of the parties obtained judgment by fraud, default or deceit; where such a decision is a nullity or where it is obvious that the court was misled into giving a decision.

Justice Abubakar insisted that the circumstances of the GTBank case fall into the category of the rare cases where the Supreme Court could amend or alter its order because the said order or judgment did not present what it intended to record.

Justice Abubakar said, “I am convinced that at the material time that the appellant’s appeal was inadvertently dismissed by this court, there was in place, a valid and subsisting brief of argument filed by the applicant.

“It will be unjust to visit the sin of the court’s Registry on an innocent, vigilant, proactive and diligent litigant.

“It is obvious from the material before us, that there were errors committed by the Registry of this court, having failed to bring to the notice of the panel of Justices that sat in chambers on the 27th February 2019 that the appellant had indeed filed its brief of argument.

“This is a case deserving of positive consideration by this court.

“Having gone through all the materials in this application, therefore, I am satisfied that the appellant/applicant’s brief of argument was filed before the order of this court made on the 27th of February 2019 dismissing the applicant’s appeal.

“The order dismissing the appeal was therefore made in error. It ought not to have been made if all materials were disclosed. The application is, therefore, meritorious and hereby succeeds.”

Justice Abubakar, therefore, went ahead to set aside the court’s ruling of February 27, 2019, dismissing GTBank’s appeal and ordered that the appeal marked 694/2014 “be relisted to constitute an integral part of the business of the court until its hearing and determination on the merit.”

Other members of the panel — Justices Ariwoola, John Okoro, Helen Ogunwumiju, Aboki – agreed with the lead judgment.

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