Judgment debt: Court orders Sonny Odogwu’s Estate to pay Access Bank N26b

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The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Estate of the late Ide Ahaba of Asaba, Chief Sunny Odogwu to pay Access Bank Plc N26billion as a judgment debt, in compliance with a November 3, 2015, judgment.

Justice Daniel Osiagor affirmed the bank’s N26b claim as canvassed by its counsel, Mr. Kemi Balogun, SAN who led Olamide Balogun Esq.
The judge, in a judgment on Friday, dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the Estate through its counsel Tony Idigbe SAN, challenging the bank’s claim and the court’s jurisdiction.

He affirmed the November 3, 2015 judgment of Justice Saliu Saidu in suit number: FHC/L/CS/1633/14, which ordered the defendants to pay their outstanding indebtedness of N26b to Access Bank.
The judge invalidated a consent judgment in which parties in the suit agreed on the payment of a lower sum of N12 billion as a full and final payment.
He noted that the said consent judgment was made by a court which was functus officio, thus lacked the jurisdiction to grant such order.

The defendants, in their preliminary objection, had argued that having taken benefit of the consent judgment, the plaintiff bank could not turn around and ask the court to set aside same.
However, Access Bank in its claim before the court said the consent judgment was flawed in that it was delivered by a court that lacked jurisdiction to entertain it as of the time it was entered as a consent judgment.

The bank, through Balogun, said the matter having been placed in the bossom of the Court of Appeal, the lower court that entered the consent judgment as the judgment of the court was functus officio (lacked jurisdiction).

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Balogun contended that the only court that had the power to adjudicate on such matter at that level was the appellate court.
Justice Osiagor, upholding the Senior Advocate’s argument, nullified the consent judgment entered by Justice Rilwan Aikawa, on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to grant such order as it was functus officio of the matter at the time.

The judge then affirmed the earlier judgment of Justice Saidu which ordered the defendants to pay their outstanding indebtedness of N26 billion.
He dismissed the N12 billion consent judgment granted by Justice Aikawa, noting that courts of coordinate jurisdiction cannot grant a consent judgment after a matter has been decided.
Justice Osiagor ordered that the payment must be less all amounts earlier paid by the judgment debtor to the bank.

The court also awarded a cost of N200,000 against the defendants.
It would be recalled that Access Bank Plc and Odogwu entered into a N26billion loan agreement when he was alive.

The late businessman wanted to use the facility to build luxury apartments to be known as Le Meridien Grand Towers in highbrow Ikoyi, Lagos.
In line with global best practices, the bank demanded for collateral security.
Thus, Odogwu mortgaged prime properties in Lagos, Abuja, Dubai, and Los Angeles to Access Bank in return for the facility.

After the death of the businessman, the mortgaged properties eventually became subjects of litigation
Trouble started when the Estate of the late Chief Odogwu, reacted angrily to a move by Access Bank to take over the uncompleted property.

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