BusinessLegal/Judiciary

Innoson: Nigeria Customs granted leave to appeal against N2bn judgment

By Francis IWUCHUKWU

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) application to challenge the February 6, 2014, judgment of the Court of Appeal that affirmed a N2, 048, 737, 443.57 billion judgment sum in favour of Innoson Nigeria Limited has been granted.

The leave was granted by the Supreme Court of Nigeria through a unanimous ruling of the apex court.

A five-man panel of the court upheld the prayers of NCS Motion on Notice initiated on November 9, 2020, and argued by its counsel, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN).

The five man-panel comprises Justices Olukayode Ariwoola, John Inyang Okoro, Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, Abdu Aboki and Tijani Abubakar.

Reading the panel’s decision on January 14, 2022, and agreeing with the lead ruling of Justice Abubakar, the Court of Appeal through Justice Aboki held that, “Having granted the application, therefore, the following orders are hereby made: “Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to appeal as an interested party against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, in appeal number CA/1/258/2011.

“Time is extended to the applicant to seek for leave to appeal against the judgment of the court of appeal on grounds of mixed law and facts.

“Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to appeal against the judgment of the court of appeal, Ibadan division, on grounds of mixed law and facts.

“Time is extended to the applicant within which to appeal against the judgment of the court of appeal, Ibadan Division, in suit No. CA/1/258/2011.

“Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to raise new points in this appeal.

“Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to adduce new evidence.

“Applicant shall file its Notice of Appeal within thirty days from today.

“Parties shall bear their respective cost.”

The first respondent in the suit which is a new generation bank was represented by Chief Aribisala, SAN, while the second respondent, Innoson, was represented by Prof Joseph N. M. Mbadugha.

The appeal, designated SC.816/2020, arose from a May 18, 2010, judgment of the Federal High Court, Ibadan in Suit No: FHC/I/CS/603/2006: (1) Innoson Nigeria Limited V. Nigerian Customs Service Board and (2) Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) in which the sum of N700,220,000 was awarded against the Defendants and in favour of the Plaintiff Innoson, with interest at the rate of 22 per cent per annum from the date of commencement of the action and 22 per cent per annum until the final liquidation of the judgment debt.

It would be recalled that on January 12, 2011, Innoson wrote to the AGF, who directed that the entirety of the judgment sum, (which at that time stood at One Billion, Eight Hundred and Eighty-One Million, Two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty-One Naira, Seventeen Kobo), be paid Innoson.

The Applicant (Customs) paid to Innoson, the sum of N700, 220,000, leaving an outstanding of One Billion, Six Hundred and Twenty Five Million, One Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Fourteen Naira, Ninety-Seven Kobo.

Consequent upon an application by Innoson, the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State, on July 29, 2011, made a garnishee order absolute against three banks, for the sum of N2, 048, 737, 443. 57.

One of the banks appealed the decision of the Garnishee proceedings to the Court of Appeal, Ibadan.

According to the Customs, the bank withdrew its appeal against Customs and the AGF, whereupon their names were struck out of the appeal, and subsequently, no processes were served on Customs by reason of the withdrawal.

But the Court of Appeal affirmed the garnishee absolute of the Trial Court and ordered that the sum of N2, 048, 737, 443. 67 billion, be released from the Nigerian Customs Services’ account in satisfaction of the judgment debt.

The Customs averred that Innoson failed to inform the Court of Appeal that consequent upon negotiations between it, Innoson and the AGF, Customs remitted N700, 220,000.00 into Innoson’s account with Mainstreet Bank on November 28, 2011, before the Court of Appeal affirmed the Order of the trial Court.

It stated that Innoson, on March 27, 2019, caused to be issued out of the Federal High Court, Awka Division, a Writ FiFa, for the full sum of N2, 048, 737, 443. 67 billion and interest at the rate of 22 per cent per annum from 29th July 2011, (the date of the garnishee order absolute), till date.

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