Law News
Innoson, GTB draw battle line over N400b lawsuit

Indications are that the N400billion civil action instituted by Innoson Nigeria Limited and its Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma against Guaranty Trust Bank Plc may have set off a chain of reaction, the outcome of which may not be palatable to either of the two parties, if the arguments of financial and economic pundits is anything to go by.

It would be recalled that Innoson had sued Guaranty Trust Bank PLC in the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, claiming a total sum of N400 billion damages for injury to their reputation, moral character, credibility, office, vocation and trade.

Besides, they are also seeking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the bank from further defaming them.

According to analysts, although both companies have been involved in a legal tussle for some years now, they nonetheless argued that N400billion was too high and capable of affecting the operations of GTBank, if granted by the court.

However, some legal analysts have argued that there is no amount of money that can equate to the name and reputation of an individual or organisation.

Citing Socrates, Edwards Michael, a lawyer said: “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of.” In the same vein, the Bible says: “A good name is to be desired more than gold; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.”

According to Micheal, Innoson and Chief Chukwuma seem to believe that a good name is priceless, and once stained it could destroy all a person or company has laboured for over the years.

“The name of Chief Chukwuma has been built into reputable names. Once smeared, they will lose the trust of the public and also the patronage of the public, which may lead to the death of the business and any future endeavour embarked upon by Chukwuma.”

The lawsuit was filed by Innocent Chukwuma’s counsel, Prof Joseph N Mbadugha Esq, sequel to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in favour of Innoson Nigeria Ltd. in Appeal No: SC/694/2014 between GTB v. Innoson Nig Ltd. There, on 12th May 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed GTBank’s Application.

Innoson Nigeria Ltd had won various lawsuits against GTBank, including 29th July 2011, the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division, through a garnishee order absolute ordered the Defendants (GTBank) to pay the sum of N2,048,737,443.6k to Innoson Nigeria Ltd.

GTBank however appealed against the judgment at the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division. In a unanimous judgment, delivered on 6th February 2014, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, affirmed the judgment of the trial Court and ordered the Defendant (GTBank) to pay the said sum of N2, 048,737,443.67k to Innoson Nigeria Ltd.

Not satisfied, GTBank appealed to the Supreme Court on 11 grounds. Subsequently, GTBank sought to amend its notice of appeal – to adduce fresh evidence – to show that Innoson Nigeria Ltd obtained the judgment of the Court of Appeal by fraud and fraudulent suppression of material facts.

Thud GTBank had through its motion on notice in Appeal No: SC/694/2014 dated the 22nd of January 2016 and filed at the Supreme Court on the 5th of February 2016, with a 15 paragraph affidavit in support averred that Innoson Nigeria Ltd obtained the Court of Appeal Judgment against GTBank in Appeal No CA/I/258/2011 by fraud.

Similarly, at paragraphs 9 and 10 of the affidavit in support of the said motion on notice deposed to by Sarah Ugamah on behalf of GTBank, GTBank said that Innoson Nigeria Ltd fraudulently suppressed that it was paid the sum of N1, 406,515,845.98 in liquidation of the judgment debt.
However in a unanimous decision, on 12th May 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed the GTBank’s said motion on notice; and while dismissing the motion, Supreme Court stated, inter alia, that GT Bank engaged in double speaking and in a frivolous frolic in bringing the application.

In the fresh suit, Innoson Nigeria Ltd and Chief Innocent Chukwuma maintained that the words published by GTBank – that it obtained the Court of Appeal Judgment by fraud and fraudulent suppression of the fact that Innoson Nig. Ltd. was paid the sum N1,406,515,845.98 in final liquidation of the judgment debt – implies that Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Nigeria Ltd are dubious, dishonest, dishonorable, and untrustworthy, of questionable character, fraudster, criminally deceptive, cheats and obtaining money through false pretenses.

In consequence, Innoson Nigeria Ltd and Innocent Chukwuma are claiming against the GTBank PLC as follows: N100billion exemplary damages; N100billion for injury to feelings – mental pains and anxiety; N150billion for injury to reputation and N50billion general damages.

Innoson Nig Ltd. and Chief Innocent Chukwuma further claim:

– An order that the published words complained of be retracted by the Defendant – GTBank with an apology published in two National dailies;
– An order of perpetual injunction restraining the GTBank from further maligning or otherwise defaming them in the words or similar words, complained of in this motion;
– An order of perpetual injunction restraining GTBank, its agents, privies or whomsoever from further defaming the plaintiffs;
– 22% interest on the said sums of money claimed above commencing on 22nd January 2016 till the date of the judgment and thereafter at the same rate of 22% interest until the satisfaction of the judgment debt.

With Guaranty Trust Bank having a shareholders’ funds base of N546.9 billion, having a N400 billion suit hanging on its neck, analysts have argued that paying such a judgement debts if found guilty by the court, such a case will not be in the best interest of a financial institution like the GTBank that is the custodian of people’s money.

As the legal battle rages, it is not clear yet how this whole issue will pan out.

But economic analysts hold the view and very strongly too that these two organisations will find an amicable way to settle their differences, so as to have maximum time for their core areas of operations.

The Nigeria Lawyer

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