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Judiciary

Court rejects objection in N1bn Pinnacle vs ICPC suit, imposes N100,000 fine

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Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday dismissed a preliminary objection by Zenith Bank challenging a suit filed by Pinnacle Communications Ltd (PCL) against the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), and the commercial bank.

Pinnacle Communications had in July 2018, dragged ICPC and Zenith bank to court for unlawfully withholding its money domicile in the bank without a valid court order, and consequently, is claiming N1billion damages against the agency.

Delivering ruling on the objection of Zenith Bank (2nd defendant), the court said the application lacked merit, was frivolous and incompetent.

Justice Taiwo held that Okey Ojukwu, counsel to the commercial bank ought not to have filed the preliminary objection in the first place because the December 14, 2018, judgement of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, which voided and nullified the freezing of account of Pinnacle Communications domicile in the bank was explicit and unambiguous.

Ojukwu had in the preliminary objection of the bank claimed that the action it took by withholding the account of PCL was a “lawful act”.

Justice Taiwo said the objection by the bank was filed out of misconception and only amounted to a waste of the court’s precious time.

“The application of the second defendant is an invitation to this court to sit on appeal on the decision of my learned brother Dimgba J. of Dec.14, 2018.

“This court, with all due respect to the second defendant shall not fall into that error.
“The application is not only incompetent and an abuse of court process, it is one brought without carefully and painstakingly understanding the ruling my learned brother gave on the interlocutory injunction”, Justice Taiwo held.
Consequently, the Judge reasoned that “This type of application should be discouraged by the court and counsel, and to discourage counsel from filing such frivolous application, the court must come down hard on counsel who filed such applications either on their own or on the instruction of their client”.
“I therefore find no merit in this application and it is accordingly dismissed having held that the application is frivolous, time wasting, incompetent and an abuse of court process.

“I shall fail in my duty as a judge if I do not award cost. Therefore, I award N100,000 against the second defendant in favour of the plaintiff” Justice Taiwo stated.
By the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/779/18, Pinnacle Communications is seeking “A declaration that the act of the 1st defendant (ICPC) in ordering the 3rd defendant to place a “post-no-debit” restrictions on the plaintiff’s account with the 2nd defendant without any court order and or any valid court order is ultra vires, unlawful, injurious, unconstitutional and a breach of the plaintiff’s right to its movable property.
The plaintiff is also seeking, “A declaration that the act of the 2nd defendant in placing a “post-no-debit” restrictions on the plaintiffs account number 1012875804 with the 3rd defendant without any court order and or any valid order is unlawful, injurious, unconstitutional and a breach of the plaintiff’s right to its movable property.
More so, PCL wants, “A declaration that the failure of the 2nd defendant to right the wrongful act of the first defendant in ordering a “post no debit” restrictions on the plaintiff’s account with the 2nd defendant without a valid court order is unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of the plaintiff’s right to its movable property.
Furthermore, the plaintiff is seeking “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from placing any restrictions on plaintiff’s account with the 2nd defendant without a valid and competent court order.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st defendant from placing any form of restrictions on the plaintiff’s account with the 2nd defendant and or any other bank or financial institution in which the plaintiff maintains any account and or dealings, without a court order and or valid and competent court order.
“An order for the payment of the one billion naira as general, exemplary and punitive damages against the defendant for their unlawful and illegal act.

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Judiciary

AMCON MANAGING DIRECTOR, AHMED KURU, IN TROUBLE OVER CONTEMPT OF COURT

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A limited liability company Global sterling products Limited   has filed a notice of consequences of disobedience to  order of the court against the Managing Director of Assets  Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON Ahmed Kuru and one Lanre Olaoluwa    for allegedly disobeying theorder of a Federal high court in Lagos.

       The company alleged that the duo of Ahmed Kuru and Lanre Olaoluwa refused to obey  the order of the court restraining the receiver  from interfering with the Company’s occupation and use of the premises at number 98 Kudirat Abiola way  pending the determination of the suit pending before the court.

      Further hearing of the case has been adjourned till 26th of October,2020.

       The order of the court was sequel to an affidavit and better affidavit sworn to by  the managing Director of Global sterling company Limited, Mr. Haris Puri and filed and argued before the court by a Lagos lawyer Barrister Ade Adedeji SAN,

     Mr Puri averred that his company Global sterling Products is the rightful owner of three Plot of  land measuring approximately  2170.897 square meters within the property known as  98,Kudirat Abiola way Oregun in Ikeja local Government area of Lagos State having acquire the land legitimately, however on the 6th of March 2020, the company  became aware of the subsistence of the extant suit when it was served with an order of the court by AMCON. The company was neither a party to the suit nor a beneficiary indebted to anyone including the respondents in the suit.

      The order of the court as relate to the portion of the land was made as a result of misrepresentation as the property was not owned by any of the respondents rather by his company.

      Mr Puri contended that the company should not suffer for the sins, ineptitude and failure of the bank to conduct a proper due diligence whose debt was purchased by AMCON, therefore unless the company’s application to set aside discharging the orders of the court made on the 11th of April,2019,is granted, the company will be dead as on going concern, as the company remains victim of error is suffering huge damages due to perishable goods in the premises and factory equipment that has since remains unserviceable and open to consequential damages and loss.

       The company undertakes to vacate the premises of the property in the unlikely event that in the course of hearing of the substantive suit the above facts are found to be false.

      Consequently, urge the court to vary the order and discharge it.

       However in its counter and further affidavit sworn to by one Ayodele Majekodunmi, AMCON stated that  a company called Cortex  obtained loan from former Skye Bank now Polaris bank which was acquired by AMCON as non performing loan, consequently AMCON on the 11th of April, 2019 obtained court order to attach all the assets that AMCON reasonably believed to be owned by the defendants and there is no evidence that the property is owned by Global Sterling Products, Consequently, it was not made a party in the suit,therefore the application of the  company for variation of the order should be refused.

     After listening to the submission of the two parties, the presiding Judge Chukwujekwu Aneke ordered that “The receiver is therefore restrained from interfering with Global Sterling Limited occupation and use of the said premises contained in the said number 98 Kudirat Abiola way pending the determination of this suit.” Thereafter adjourned  till 26th of October 2020 for  hearing, but the company alleged that Mr Ahmed Kuru and Lanre Olaoluwa have refused to obey the order of the court  hence the filling of the (form 48) notice of the consequences of disobedience of order of the court.

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Judiciary

COVID 19 : THE ANATHEMA OF A LONG VACATION FOR THE COURTS -Osaro EGBOBAMIEN SAN

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The world is repositioning on the front foot to begin what is sure to be a long and painful economic recovery from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries, including Nigeria are teetering on the verge of a recession.  Naturally, our leaders are anxious to get people back to work from the forced 8- week vacation without pay that has put many businesses and even public services in jeopardy. It has been a management of crises, helping to ascertain true leaders, as well as shapely redefining fault lines in politics, law and economics.    Law stands on a special pedestal and has been greatly demeaned in Nigeria principally because of its abstract nature. Perceived not just as a mere set of rules to adjudicate dispute, but a realm through which individuals are connected to one another and to the larger society, it has received its most devastating blow, ironically by those charged with administration of justice at the highest level. As at date, there is yet no indication that the annual vacation in July/August will be suspended, to make for otherwise productive time lost in the period of the COVID-19 induced holiday.     The Justice Reform Project (JRP), like other civil society organisations, has not been silent through the pandemic, and now facing its aftermath. It has called for and recommended the suspension of the annual vacation of the courts to recover time lost to the pandemic response initiative.   A commonsensical step it would seem, given the events of the past 8 weeks, However, in Nigeria, we are often polarised along self interest, while the national interest takes a remote seat in evaluation. As in the call for virtual hearing, the call to suspend the annual vacation is likely to play to a typical stereotype. Annual vacation is statutory, and the various Chief Justices are constitutionally empowered to prescribe vacation dates. So, it may be argued disingenuously that it will be unconstitutional to suspend the annual vacation, just as it is contended it is unconstitutional to access the courts virtually.         This argument falls flat. The response initiative to the contagious nature of the viral disease, the Quarantine Act has necessitated the indirect suspension of the most fundamental part of the Constitution. The right to freedom of movement, right to freedom of association, right to engage in certain contracts and the entire right to liberty have all been impeded.     You need the law to redefine these parameters. Any inhibition in the Constitution, for instance to virtual hearing (although I find it difficult to locate any) or constraints to access justice could easily have been accommodated within Quarantine Act. The failure to have done so, is a lack of appreciation that law constitutes a set of values upon which important part of our society is predicated.To proceed on annual vacation would almost mean we do not appreciate the role of a justice system in the daily life of the people it serves. And the absence of any clarity on the subject as at date, further undermines confidence in a sphere where time, scheduling and preparation is of essence.     COVID-19 seems to reveal a fallacy that in Nigeria we can exist without law. Proceeding on annual leave in the current climate is to compound our misconception and tilt us towards a Hobbesian state of nature where there is no common authority to restrain the arbitrary exercise of power by those who wield it.      In the end, all who seek justice suffer disillusionment, and consequently, resort to self-help. It is a mistaken belief to think that in the absence of a formally sanctioned justice system, society has ground to a halt. Nature abhors a vacuum and so the formal justice system has no doubt been supplanted by a shadow system that has kept ostensible peace and provided remedy.      Illegality has its own structures and appeals to a desperate population who crave certainty in their dealings, and solutions to problems that arise daily. This could be in the form of rogue government agencies and officials who act as mercenaries sworn to the highest bidder Or warlords and ‘area boys’, who though boasting only a crude alternative to formal systems, may be at least capable of some consistency and dependability.   These revelations may tend towards the unfortunate conclusion that even our functional justice system provides no real justice and so is not missed by either those who dispense it, or those who are supposedly served by it, when absent. The parallel system of illegality seems to provide more succour than the rule of law. Other nations around the world have reacted decisively to the forced holiday brought on by the pandemic. Those from which Nigeria borrowed much of its constitution; notably, America, Australia, and India, have taken their justice online by swiftly instituting virtual hearing of matters. The common law upon which our system is modelled is also in this company. So, while their economies have hobbled along, they have at least made some progress to boast of. For us, COVID-19 has painfully exposed our superficial justice system by exercising discretion to stay closed, and considering another 6 weeks holiday, the authorities are painting the rule of law as only an option, among a suite of options for ordering(a disorderly) society. This is exacerbated by their comfortable detailing of all the inhibitions that will not allow for the system to operate, without providing any alternative. Any service that fails to evolve to meet the times, will die of natural causes. We are now providing the palliative care to make the demise of our own justice system more comfortable. Lawyers also earn their living from the courts, and it is better left to the imagination the lengths that necessity will drive otherwise brilliant and hardworking practitioners to. Still, we are not without heroes. Civil society, and the Bar must be commended for taking a charitable stand. Acts of charity and raising awareness of the needs of the most vulnerable among us, are never in danger of becoming outdated. While this charity disposition must be commended, it is certainly not the solution. The Bar must in addition stand up, to ensure that the administration of justice remains effective, efficient, and effectual. It ought to be at the vanguard calling for virtual hearing and a suspension of the annual vacation. We do a disservice to whatever faiths we profess and our collective conscience by treating this crisis as one that can be solved with hand-outs. Africa has never known true development from foreign aid. It is criminal to give only temporary panacea when the means to advance towards a lasting solution lies within our power. Perhaps those who are paid from taxpayer funds, could take a cue from the shop owners, vulcanizers and artisans who know too well that if you do not find a means to provide a service, not only the receiver of the service suffers, you the provider of the service are soon forgotten. If the courts will not use the regularly scheduled annual vacation to recover lost ground and insist on business as usual at the cost of taxpayers, confirmation should at the very least be provided sooner and not later to ensure stakeholders are not taken unawares. Contingencies will need to be out in place. When we look back as a nation after COVID, what lasting innovation, can we say it has brought out of us? Beyond individual acts of charity, I am yet to find a satisfactory answer. Unfamiliarity with technology may be a disincentive to senior judicial officers to move to virtual hearings, however that is no reason to hold the country to ransom over what could be cured by temporarily employing school leavers and undergraduates to guide their Lordship through the process. As we prepare for a post COVID world, with all the uncertainty that portends for domestic and international commerce, those who will succeed are those who are able to come out different from how they went in. Any country, or individual for that matter, who emerges without a new skill or two; a new trick or two to avert or mitigate the impact of future crises, would accurately be described as a failure. Let us rise above our natural proclivity for intellectual debates during times of action. Other nations are finding solutions or at worst, identifying markers for what a new normal could look like and the changes that need to be made. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if we fail to do the same. The annual vacation for 2020 must be suspended immediately!!!

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The day Thugs Unleashed Mayhem on Idumuje Igboko

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Idumuje Igboko is located in Aniocha, North of Delta State and bordered to the East by Idumuje-Unor, Ekpon or Akpu to the North West, Ohodua to the North East, Igbodo to the West and Onicha-Ugbo to the South.

Idumuje-Ugboko was founded in the 17th century. Historians are of the opinion that a core group of settlers led by Nwoko, his siblings and relations founded the community.

Idumuje-Ugboko is made of four villages. They are Atuma, Ogbe-Obi, Ogbe-Ofu and Onicha-Ukwu (Ogbe-Akwu). The four villages are reputed to have migrated from various towns and kingdoms in and around the present states of Delta, Edo and Ondo.

For instance, the Atuma village is said to have migrated from Owo, a town in present-day Ondo State, the Ogbe-Ofu from Emu, an Ishan speaking town in present-day Edo state, the Ogbe-Obi from Uzebu in the old Benin kingdom and Onicha-Ukwu from Onicha-Ukwu, a town in present-day Delta State. Among the four villages, the Onicha-Ukwu was the last of the villages to settle in Idumuje-Ugboko.

There are 16 Ebos and 24 quarters, commonly known as Idumu. The town is relatively known for its peaceful coexistence of his people since it was founded until thugs unleased mayhem on the community. After the mayhem, they left their trademark sorrow, tears and blood. The thugs were arrested and are currently facing criminal charges at the Federal High Court, Abuja

Chief Chris Ogwu is the prime minister of Ugboko, a former editor and retired journalist. He told this reporter how the incident happened. “Let me tell you, I was one of the victims of the mayhem. I was brutalized and my properties damaged by these boys. They abducted me and took me to the palace in front of Nonso where I was beaten up mercilessly.

“Between March 23rd and 26th, 2017, they unleashed mayhem on the Idumuje Ugboko community, attacked residents in their homes with guns, small axes, machetes, and sticks.

In the evening of 23rd of March, alarms were raised in the community by women and boys who were running helter-skelter and screaming.

 “Upon stopping a few of them and asking what the problem was, it was learnt that thugs had invaded the residence of one Mr. Kennedy Nedu Iloh and had abducted him to an unknown destination. A search party made up of friends, family members and well-wishers later that night found and rescued him in the palace. His abductors had fled the scene on sighting his rescuers approaching their location’

 “The next day, I, Chief Christopher Chukwuka Ogwu, the Iyase traditional prime minister of the Idumuje Ugboko Kingdom was seated in front of my house about 10 am when suddenly armed thugs attacked my home. They smashed the windscreens of two of my cars which were packed in front of my house – a Mercedes Benz 300 V-boot and a Toyota Camry (2.4cc). They entered the cars and stole some valuables such as telephones, cash, documents, etc. Meanwhile, I was abducted from my home to the palace grounds where I was ordered to lie on the grass after I had been thoroughly beaten up. Upon my return home, I found my home had been broken into and some of my valuables looted.

 ‘In continuation of these attacks, on the 25th and 25th, 21 other homes were similarly attacked at night with armed thugs roaming the community from village to village targeting homes of persons who supported the allocation of land to Lina’s International, a holding company owned by Prince Ned Nwoko who had applied to His Royal Majesty the Obi of Idumuje Ugboko for 90 hectares to build a sport university in Ugboko. His Royal Majesty (now late) was progressively inclined towards the university and had set up a 21-man land allocation of committee from amongst the membership of the Obi in Council (the official law making organ of the kingdom).

 “I can tell you without mincing words that the thugs were sent to unleash the mayhem. At this time, Mr. Peter Bama was the chairman of local vigilante group set up in the community.

Also during the mayhem, Peter Bama’s home was one of those attacked. The thugs removed from his home some of the weapons and motorcycles which well-meaning members of the community had provided for the vigilante group. We reported the loss of the weapons and the motorcycles to the police who immediately gave assurance that they would investigate the robbery.”

 Unfortunately, few months later, when a new vigilante group was launched in the community, the same supposedly lost weapons and motorcycles were released to them by the new tenants in the palace.

 t would therefore appear that the palace harboured some of the items removed from victims’ homes. People have therefore drawn the conclusion that Prince Nonso sponsored the attacks but he had denied it in the past saying he did not send the thugs to attack anybody.

 On the recent campaign of calumny against Prince Ned Nwoko, he said ‘’Those behind the said campaign want to divert attention from the criminal proceedings for murder and terrorism believing that if they raise false allegations against me I will tell the complainants to withdraw the matter in Abuja.” The thugs  were granted bail of N50 million each but  are currently in Kuje prison because they couldn’t up  meet up with  their bail conditions

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