Can a Party Who Did Not Participate in Previous Proceedings Appeal as an Interested Party

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CASE TITLE:  NIGERIA CUSTOMS SERVICE BOARD & ANOR v. INNOSON NIGERIA LIMITED & ORS (2022) LPELR-56659(SC)

JUDGMENT DATE: 14TH JANUARY, 2022

JUSTICES:

  • OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA, JSC
  • JOHN INYANG OKORO, JSC
  • HELEN MORONKEJI OGUNWUMIJU, JSC
  • ABDU ABOKI, JSC
  • TIJJANI ABUBAKAR, JSC

PRACTICE AREA: APPEAL- APPEAL BY INTERESTED PARTY

FACTS:

On the 18th of May, 2010, the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division delivered its judgment in SUIT NO: FHC/I/CS/603/2C06:  (1) INNOSON NIGERIA LIMITED V. NIGERIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE BOARD and (2) ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION in which the sum of N700,220,000.00 (Seven Hundred Million, Two Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira), was awarded against the Defendants in the suit, and in favor of the Plaintiff, INNOSON NIGERIA LIMITED, with interest at the rate of 22% per annum from the date of commencement of the action and 22% per annum until the final liquidation of the judgment debt.

On 12th January 2011, Innoson Nigeria Limited, through its Counsel, wrote to the Attorney General, who directed that the entirety of the judgment sum be paid. The Applicant (NIGERIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE BOARD) then paid the sum of Seven Hundred Million Two Hundred and Twenty-Two Thousand Naira only (N700,220,000.00) to the Innoson.

Then Innoson Nigeria Limited subsequently commenced garnishee proceedings against three banks, including Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in the Federal High Court Ibadan.

In its considered ruling on the garnishee proceedings, the Federal High Court Ibadan, made the garnishee order absolute against the three banks, including Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, for the sum of N2,048,737,443.67 (Two Billion, Forty-Eight Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty-Seven Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty-Three Naira and Sixty-Seven Kobo).

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Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, appealed the decision of the garnishee proceedings to the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, but withdrew its appeal against the Applicant and the Attorney General of the Federation, whereupon their names were struck out of the appeal, and subsequently, no processes were served on the Applicant by reason of the withdrawal.

The Court of Appeal delivered its judgment on the garnishee proceedings and affirmed the garnishee order absolute of the trial Court.

On the 27th of March 2019, Innoson Nigeria Limited caused to be issued out of the Federal High Court, Awka Division, a Writ of FIFa, for the full judgment sum and interest at the rate of 22% per annum, in execution of the Court’s judgment.

The Applicant therefore filed an application for leave of the Supreme Court to appeal as an interested party, among other things.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:

The application was resolved upon the consideration of the issue thus:

“Whether having regard to the facts of this case, the prayers being sought by the Applicant ought not to be granted.”

COUNSEL SUBMISSIONS:

Learned Counsel to the Applicant submitted that the Innoson Nigeria Limited failed to inform the Court of Appeal that the Applicant remitted the sum of N700,220,000.00 (Seven Hundred Million, Two Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira), into their account before the Court of Appeal affirmed the garnishee order of the trial Court.

That the act exposed the Applicant to the jeopardy of losing that sum as Innoson has caused a Writ of FIFa to be issued for the recovery of the full judgment debt without taking into account the sum of N700,220,000.0. Counsel submitted that the Applicant is therefore a person who has been prejudicially affected by the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

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In response, Learned Counsel to the Respondent submitted that the Applicant was aware of the pendency of the matter at the Court of Appeal, as all processes were served on it by the Innoson Nigeria Limited. That the Applicant and the Attorney General of the Federation were represented in the Garnishee proceedings.

Learned Counsel further submitted that the Applicant has no right to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered on 6th February, 2011 because it neither appealed against the trial Court’s decision of 29th July,2011 nor appealed against the Court of Appeal decision of 28th October, 2013.

DECISION/HELD:

The application was granted as prayed.

RATIO:

  1. APPEAL- APPEAL BY INTERESTED PARTY: Nature of interest to qualify a party to appeal as person interested or as person having interest in a matter

It has been stated in a plethora of decided cases that the interest which will support an application under the provisions must be a genuine and legally recognizable interest, in respect of a decision which prejudicially affects such an applicant. In RE: ABDULLAHI (2018) LPELR 45202 (SC) this Court field that: “The interest which will support an application for leave to appeal as interested party must be genuine and legally recognizable interest in respect of a decision which prejudicially affects such a person. And for a person to qualify as a person interested, the applicant must show not only that he is a person having interest in the matter but also that the order or judgment of the Court below which he is seeking leave to appeal against prejudicially affects his interest. In other words, to succeed in the application, the applicants must show that they are persons who are aggrieved or persons against whom decisions have been produced which have wrongfully refused them something or wrongly affected their title to something.” Per ABOKI, J.S.C.

  1. APPEAL- APPEAL BY INTERESTED PARTY: Whether a party interested in an appeal, who was not originally a party to the decision complained of, must first seek leave as an interested party

“The position of the law is trite that an appellant or any person desirous of appealing a judgment of a Court which he was not originally a party to the decision complained of must first seek leave of the appellate Court to appeal as an interested party. Every other prayer(s) would then depend on the success of the applicant being made a party in the appeal. See Chukwu & Anor v INEC & Ors (2014) 10 NWLR (pt 1415) 385; Williams v Mokwe (2015) LPELR-3489 (SC).” Per OKORO, J.S.C.

  1. APPEAL-APPEAL BY INTERESTED PARTY: What an applicant seeking leave to appeal as an interested party must show to qualify for same

“An applicant seeking for leave of Court to appeal as an interested party must make a detailed deposition in his affidavit in support of the application to show;(a) his interest in the matter. (b) why he was not a party in the trial Court. (c) good reasons for the delay in filing the application.” Per ABUBAKAR, J.S.C. 

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