The Supreme Court has reversed its earlier ruling dismissing an appeal by Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) against a 2.4 billion judgement in favour of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited.
A five-member panel led by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola held that the apex court erred in its February 27, 2019 ruling in suit no SC/694/2014.
Ruling in favour of GTB, the apex court held that “The order dismissing the appeal was therefore made in error. It ought not to have been made if all materials were disclosed. The application is, therefore, meritorious and hereby succeeds.”
What happened in court
GTB had filed an application before the apex court seeking re-listing of the said appeal on the grounds that the matter was dismissed wrongly.
Reading the judgement on Friday, Justice Abdu Aboki, said the court was misled by its registry, he said that if the panel that heard the appeal on February 27, 2019 was informed of GTB’s brief of arguments, it would not have ruled dismissing the appeal on the grounds that it lacked diligent prosecution.
“I am convinced that at the material time that the appellant’s appeal was inadvertently dismissed by this court, there was in place, a valid and subsisting brief of argument filed by the applicant.
“It is obvious from the material before us that there were errors committed by the Registry of this court, having failed to bring to the notice of the panel of Justices that sat in chambers on the 27th February 2019 that the appellant had indeed filed its brief of argument,” the judge stated.
The court, having admitted that it erred, said “It will be unjust to visit the sin of the court’s Registry on an innocent, vigilant, proactive and diligent litigant.”
The court noted that the Supreme Court has the power to set aside its own decision in certain cases and the GTB case falls in such a category.
“Having gone through all the materials in this application, therefore, I am satisfied that the appellant/applicant’s brief of argument was filed before the order of this court made on the 27th of February 2019 dismissing the applicant’s appeal,” they added.
The panel therefore set aside the decision of February 27, 2019 and ordered the relisting of the said 2014 appeal.
The legal battle between Innoson and GTB started since 2011 over claims and counterclaims of loans between the vehicle manufacturing company and the bank.
In suit no: FHC/L/CS/603/2006, A federal high Court Ibadan in a Garnishee order Absolute on 29 July 2011, ordered GTB to pay Innoson the judgement sum of N2.4 billion with a 22% interest per annum on the judgement sum until its final liquidation.
In 2013, a high court in suit no: FHC/Cs/139/2012 ordered GTB to pay N4.7 billion to Innoson as restitution for arbitrary charges. GTB however, challenged the ruling of the high court at the Court of Appeal, Enugu division.
December 2014, the Appellate court asked GTB to deposit N6 billion in an interest yielding account to be supervised by the court’s Registrar. The money was to be domiciled in an account that will accrue interests, pending determination of the suit.
Not satisfied with that decision, GTB filed a motion for the stay of execution of the ruling. However, The apex court struck out the application on the grounds that GTB had not obeyed the ruling of the appellate court that directed it to deposit the said sum into an interest yielding account.
In June 2018, the Supreme Court asked all parties in the suit to return to the Court of Appeal for the substantive trial.
On March 27, 2019, Innoson obtained an order from the Akwa Division of the Federal High court granting it leave to enforce and execute the garnishee order absolute.
GTB again filed a motion on notice seeking an order to suspend the execution embarked upon by Innoson Nigeria Ltd. it also sought an order setting aside the exparte order that granted Innoson the leave to enforce the judgement.
However, the court did not grant GTB’s prayer but affirmed the decision of the other courts.
In November 2020, GTB announced that it had obtained regulatory approval-in-principle (AIP) from the Central Bank of Nigeria to restructure into a financial holding company (Holdco).
With the new development, Innoson filed a fresh suit against GTB seeking to stop the processes until the judgement debt was paid:
In a suit marked FHC/EN/CS/161/2020 Innoson sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the CAC from deregistering the GTB as a public limited liability company and or re-registering the bank as a private limited liability until GTB pays the company outstanding judgment debt of N32, 875, 204, 984.38k arising from Suit Nos: FHC/L/CS/603/2006 and No. FHC/AWK/CS/139/2012 respectively affirmed by the appellate courts.
In June 2021 GTB met all requirements for restructuring and was listed by the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group). Innoson however, filed a motion on notice asking the court to “set aside every step the bank has taken in restructuring Holdco.