Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered NICON Group of Companies to pay N1.7bn debt to Ecobank Nigeria Ltd.
The court also ordered NICON to pay interest on the cumulative indebtedness of N1,787,108,417.92 at the rate of 30 per cent per annum from November 28, 2013.
It ordered that the interest rate on the cumulative debt shall be 10 per cent per annum after judgment until the debt is fully paid.
Justice Aneke awarded N100,000 to the bank as cost incurred in the litigation.
He ordered NICON to pay the sum of N1,599,597,144.04 being the mutually agreed and subsisting indebtedness of the defendant to the plaintiff “as per plaintiff’s correspondence of April 5, 2012 endorsed and covenanted to by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, the defendant’s Chairman, prime mover, alter ego.
“Judgment in the sum of N187,511,273.91 being the accrued interest thereon on the mutually agreed sum from April 30, 2013 till November 27, 2013 at the rate of 20 per cent per annum.
“Interest on the cumulative indebtedness totalling N1,787,108,417.92 at the rate of 30 per cent per annum from November 28, 2013 till judgment (or sooner payment) and thereafter at the rate of 10 per cent per annum until the final liquidation of the judgment sum.
“Cost of the sum of N100,000 in in favour of the plaintiff.”
The judge delivered judgment in a suit filed by Ecobank to compel NICON to pay the debt.
He held that NICON’s objection to the suit was “grossly unmeritorious”.
The bank had offered loan to NICON through a letter dated June 21, 2006.
But NICON’s chairman, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, was said to have on April 5, 2012, agreed to pay the debt, before the bank approached the court for an order compelling the company to make the payment.
Ecobank’s lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), had asked the court to dismiss NICON’s preliminary objection to the suit which he instituted under Undefended List Procedure.
NICON, through its lawyer Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), in a preliminary objection, said the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
It added the court lacked jurisdiction because the subject matter of the suit did not fall within the court’s exclusive jurisdiction.
Akintola argued that only the state High Court had jurisdiction over such matter.
However, Justice Aneke assumed jurisdiction over the matter, holding that the court had concurrent jurisdiction with the state High Court in banker-customer relationship.
“Similarly, the said agreement of April 5, 2012 currently regulating the relationship between parties did not make any provision for the parties to submit to arbitration nor in any other way whatsoever incorporated the terms of the arbitration clause in the now abandoned offer letter of June 21, 2006.
“Therefore, the defendant’s learned senior counsel’s argument that parties must have course to arbitration in accordance with the provisions of Section 5 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Cap. A/S, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and as such this court must decline jurisdiction until recourse is made to arbitration as contained in the parties’ agreement is in my humble view totally unfounded and baseless as rightly submitted by the learned senior counsel for the plaintiff/respondent.
“The defendant/applicant’s notice of preliminary objection is grossly unmeritorious and same is hereby accordingly dismissed in its entirety,” the judge held.