Justice Yellim Bogoro of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has granted Ecobank’s application seeking to join Dr. Oba Otudeko, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc and Honeywell Group Limited as additional defendants in a counter-claim filed by the bank pursuant to judgement of the Supreme Court delivered on 27th January, 2023.
Justice Bogoro made the order in Suit FHC/L/CS/352/2023 following Ecobank’s application filed by its lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba.
Parties in the suit were Anchorage Leisures Limited, Siloam Global Limited and Honeywell Flour Mills Plc as Plaintiffs/Respondents and Ecobank as Defendant/Applicant.
Specifically, the judge granted two out of the bank’s four prayers as contained in its Motion on Notice.
They were, “An order for extension of time and/or leave of the court for the Defendant/Applicant to file and serve its counter-claim to the suit.
“An order granting leave to the Defendant/Counter-Claimant to join (1) Mr. Oba Otudeko; (2), Honeywell Group Limited and (3) Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc. as additional Defendants to the counter-claim.”
The other two prayers which were withdrawn by Ogunba and struck out by the court were: “An order amending the Statement of Defence, Witness Statement on Oath and List of Documents to include the facts/documents related to the Counter-Claim as contained in the attached Amendment Statement of Defence and Counter-Claim.
“An order deeming the already filed and served counter-claim dated 22nd May, 2023 as having been properly filed and served.”
Bode Olanipekun represented Plaintiffs while Prof. Taiwo Osipitan appeared for the Applicant in a motion seeking to strike out some paragraphs of Ecobank’s preliminary objection.
Also, C.I. Umeche, appeared for Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc.
At the commencement of proceedings, Taiwo Osipitan said: “We received a letter from Ecobank indicating its intention to withdraw some of the paragraphs we’re objecting to and prayers 4 and 5 of the applicant’s motion dated 5th of April, 2023.”
But Ogunba informed the court that his intention to withdraw the paragraphs we’re not new.
He said: “We had actually indicated that we would withdraw it at the last adjourned date but we took a formal step by writing to counsel.
“We equally have a motion dated the 22nd of May 2023. It’s seeking extension of time to file our counter-claim and also leave to join additional defendants to the counter-claim, Subject to the overriding convenience of the court, I hereby move in terms of the motion.”
Olanipekun did not oppose the application.
He said: “I’m not opposed to the application but I have an observation about relief D because the deeming order cannot be granted.”
On his part, counsel for Flour Mills stated that the motion on notice of the counter claimant was grossly incompetent, because the applicant failed to wait for the court to consider the propriety of the application before proceeding to file the counter claim.
Ruling on the arguments, Justice Bogoro granted Ecobank reliefs A and B, but struck out prayers D and C.
The court then adjourned till July 19 for report of service.
Plaintiffs had filed this suit against the bank after the Supreme Court judgment which had affirmed the indebtedness of Honeywell companies to Ecobank.
A five-member panel of the Supreme Court had upheld Ogunba’s arguments and had affirmed the judgment of the Appeal Court, Lagos which set aside the May 21, 2019 decision of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The Apex Court in its lead judgement, delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim held that Honeywell and its sister companies were indebted to Ecobank and must pay.
Other members of the panel were Justice John Inyang Okoro (Presiding), Justice Amina Adamu Augie, Justice Adamu Jauro and Justice Tijjani Abubakar.