Group Managing Director of Honeywell Group Plc, Dr. Oba Otudeko, on Thursday, appeared before a Federal High Court Lagos, to give evidence, in relation to a N5.5billion debt allegedly owed Ecobank Nigeria Plc.
Justice Mohammed Idris had ordered his appearance in court, via a subpoena (witness summons), while ruling in a suit by Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, and its sister company – Anchorage Leisures Ltd against Ecobank Nigeria Ltd.
The plaintiffs are challenging the alleged indebtedness to the bank, to the tune of N5.5billion.
Justice Idris had ordered that a witness summons be personally served on Otudeko, following insistence of defence counsel, who argued that he (Otudeko) was his first witness.
The court had accordingly, issued a summons, to enable him (Otudeko) appear and testify before the court.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, the witness arrived the courtroom before commencement of proceedings, and when the case was called, he moved into the witness box.
He was sworn on to the holy bible and was permitted by the court to sit down.
Before his evidence in chief, Otudeko prayed the court for permission to speak and it was granted.
He told the court, that the said witness summons was not served on him personally, but that he was only informed by his legal officers.
“This is a first experience, and I am extremely delighted to be here to see all professionals in practice; I was away from Lagos, and only got a call from my officers who informed me of the position, and I came back yesterday.
“I have great respect for the institution of the court, and so I have deposed to my witness statement and have filed same,”
The following drama ensued:
After Otudeko’s address to the court, Counsel to Ecobank, Mr O.A Divine, then began his examination in chief and asked the witness the preliminary question of “tell the court your names, occupation and address.
The witness responded: “ My name is Dr Oba Otudeko, I am a businessman, and my place of business is at No 6, Mekuwen St. Ikoyi Lagos”.
The Defence Counsel then asked again his professional qualification. At this stage the Plantiff’s counsel, Mr. Olabode Olanipekun, raised objection, that the proper practice in such proceeding, was for the defence to lead the witness to adopt his written deposition.
He added that the defence cannot embark on a journey of questions, in such proceedings, adding that after adoption, the plaintiff is entitled to cross examination and then re-examination.
In his response, defence counsel argued that the witness was a subpoenaed one, and so he is entitled to lead his witness in evidence without hindrance. He further argued that the witness statement on oath was served on him in court earlier.
In a short ruling, however, the court held that the witness could only be led to adopt his witness statement.
After the court’s ruling, defence counsel, then declined to lead the witness to adopt his statement. Olanipekun, however told the court that despite the decision of Ecobank Plc’s lawyer not to examine Otudeko on his statement on oath, the court should allow him to crossexamine the witness (Otudeko) on the statement.