Alleged N352.3m judgment debt: Litigation officer testified in court

Absence of Judge stalls trial of ex-NIMASA DG

Olaide Matthew

 

An assistant director in litigation department of the Lagos state judiciary, Mr. Abdussalam Oluwole, has testified how the judiciary computed the sum of N352.5m allegedly paid to a Lagos based lawyer Chief Ladi Rotimi-Williams, SAN as a judgment debt paid to him.

Alleged N352.3m judgment debt: Litigation officer testified in court

Testifying before Justice A. Okuwobi in suit No: LD/ 147/2009, Abdussalam, said that the court awarded the cost on different rates.

Led in evidence by the defence counsel, Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, he said that “I did the calculation with my team and the total judgment debts plus interest include interest (1-3), special damages, cost awarded and actual refund.”

The witness also maintained before the court that the calculation was based on the judgment documents obtained either by original or the certified through copy.

Under cross examinations by claimants’ counsel, Mr. Chris Eneje, the witness, maintained that he started the computation of the interest’s from the month of June of the same year.

The judge however adjourned the matter till November 12, 2015 for further hearing.

It would be recalled that in 1998, T.S.A Industries had filed a suit before an Ikeja High Court, accusing First Bank of Nigeria Plc. of negligence and allowing fraudulent activities to be carried out on its account domicile with the bank.

The company told the court that in October 29, 1991, its management write a letter to First Bank of Nigeria of its decision to suspend and withdraw the signature made to its account with the bank.

According to the company, it is the way to prevent fraudulent activities on its account since the company was already experience difficulties in its operation at that time.

However, the company accused the bank of failure to abide by its directives from October 31, 1991 till December 30, 1992 the defendant caused the account of the company to be operated fraudulently by neglecting to comply with the instruction of the board of directors that was duly communicated to it.

The company further said that as at the time the instruction was given between October 31, 1991 and December 30, 1992 funs arising from the sale of company’s product amounting to N22.3m was lodged into the company’s account with the bank.

It therefore sought for a declaration that the defendant was fraudulent in keeping of the company’s account, also an order that the defendant should refund the principal sum of N22.3m being lodged into the account as well as an order for the refund of sum of N33.6m being the interest thereon from December 31, 1992 till December 30, 1997 at the rate of 21% per annum until the date of final payment.

Pursuant to the judgment, the first generation bank through its head, legal services, Mr. Olaniyi Kukoyi, on March 11, 2008, wrote a petition to the chairman, National Judicial Council, NJC, Abuja, alleging compliant of judgment racketeering and attempt to extort non-existing judgment debt against Justice Funmilayo Atilade of the Lagos State judiciary.

The petitioner requested that the judge should be invited to explain to the commission strange conduct in the case particularly under which law the judge derived the powers to award to the successful party, an amount outside the prescription of the actual award made in that judgment.

The petition also want the NJC to unravel the laws which compel an unsuccessful party to a judgment to pay the ‘judgment debt’ over and above what was handed down by the court and the interest accrued, which the petitioners were coerced to pay.

It further sought to unravel the application made to the court by the judgment-creditor which was refused by the trial judge, adding that “is it possible that his lordship, after so many year on the bench, does not know how prayers are sought, or the difference between a motion and an affidavit?”

The petition further queried how possible it is for a judge after many years on the bench, not to distinguish between an application challenging the competence of a court to make an order and the one seeking the exercise of judicial discretion.

In pursuant to the petition, Chief Ladi Rotimi -Williams, who is a party to the matter filed a suit no: LD/147/2009 against the bank.

In a statement of defence, the defendant noted that no portion of the judgment in the suit no: ID/9/98 being referred was any award made for the sum of N33.6m, only that the claimants had wrongfully included it in the judgment-debt, and have with intent of cheating the defendant on the judgment continue to insist on enforcing for the amount, even after the defendant had drawn the claimants’ attention to the wrongful conduct inclusion.

It further stated that although the said judgment awarded with interest at the rate of 1 per cent per annum on the N22.3m (ordered to be refunded by defendant to the judgment-creditor in the said suit) from 31st December, 1996, “the claimants with intent to defraud changed the 1 per cent actually awarded to some other higher interest per-centrum.”

The defence further stated that although the judgment did not award any interest on the N320m ordered to be paid by the defendant to the judgment-creditor, therein as special damages for loss of profit, the claimants in enforcing for this, had with intent to defraud accrued interest thereon, first at the rate of 6 per cent per annum and lately at the rate of 21 per cent.”

It further stated that although the said judgment awarded post-judgment interest on the refund component of the total sum awarded at the rate of 6 per cent per annum from 23 January, 2001 till the amount is liquidated.

Although, the defendant had on the 21 May, 2004, paid the sum that was due on the entire judgment even to the excess of N22.6 million, when it deposited the sum of N376m in an interest-bearing account with Union Bank of Nigeria plc, pursuant to an order of stay of execution made on the 3 May, 2004 by the Supreme Court; the claimants have accrued and enforced post-judgment on the entire judgment-amount, first at the rate of 6 per cent per annum and lately at the rate of 21 per cent per annum, for the period after the said 21 May,2004. When the interest-bearing judgment-deposit account was opened with the said Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. and fully funded even to the excess of the amount due as of that date as debt on the judgment.” It added.

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