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Court adjourns debt suit between BEDC, banks to April 5

By Joseph Onyekwere
01 April 2022   |   4:03 am
A Federal High Court, Lagos has adjourned till April 5, the suit between three banks, two firms, and Benin Electricity Distribution Company Limited (BEDC) and others over an alleged debt.

(PHOTO: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

A Federal High Court, Lagos has adjourned till April 5, the suit between three banks, two firms, and Benin Electricity Distribution Company Limited (BEDC) and others over an alleged debt.

Justice Yelen Bogoro fixed the date, yesterday, following arguments over the priority of an application filed and argued by Dr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN).

Pinheiro’s application seeks to strike out the names of sixth defendant, Mrs. Olufunke Osibodu and eighth defendant, BEDC from the suit.

The lawyer contended that both defendants had nothing to do with the suit filed by Kunle Ogunba (SAN) on behalf of the counter-claimants.

He, therefore, prayed the court to strike out the suit.

The counter-claimants are Stanbic IBTC Bank, Fidelity Bank, Keystone Bank, Alm Consulting Limited and Stanbic IBTC Trustees Limited.

During the proceedings, BEDC’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) described the counter-claimants’ motion as “a gross abuse and a detriment to legal practice.”

He wondered how a non-party to a suit, which according to him, is already before the court could be suddenly added without any basis.

“My lord, I think as an elder in the legal circle, the application filed in protest by Pinheiro, challenging his appearance in a strange suit takes priority over every other application, which is very fundamental and elementary,” Olanipekun said.

Pinheiro had lamented that the suit had affected BEDC operations in the Niger Delta, throwing the area into darkness and leading to panic and unrest.

“They have been in darkness because of a letter written to the BEDC that their asset was under receivership. So, I urge the court to hear our application first, which takes priority over any interlocutory application,” Pinhero said.

Similarly, counsel to fourth and ninth respondents, Bode Olanipekun (SAN), also prayed the court to strike out the name of his clients, because they had no business with the suit.

But lawyer to counter-claimant, Ogunba, opposed them, arguing that the court ought to hear his application for interlocutory injunction first, on the basis that it was ripe for hearing.

However, Justice Bogoro, in a bench ruling, agreed with Pinheiro and Olanipekun that the proper application to hear first was that of Pinheiro, which is seeking to strike out the names of his clients for being wrongly joined in the suit.

Consequently, the judge adjourned the hearing of the motion to April 5.

In the suit marked FHC/L/CS/239/2022, the counsel for the 6th and 8th defendants/applicants is praying the court for an order staying hearing or further proceeding on the counter-claim and the motion on notice for interlocutory orders/injunctions both of March 10, 2022, pending the hearing and determination of the application.

“An order striking out the names of the sixth and eighth defendants/applicants from the counter-claim suit in limine,” the motion stated.

The grounds for the application include that both the counter-claim and the motion on notice are seeking orders/injunctions “with far-reaching implication on the sixth and eighth defendants/applicants, who ordinarily are not necessary parties to the dispute comprised in the counter-claim.

“By the facts and reliefs pleaded in the counter-claim, the counterclaimants are principally claiming against the 1st defendant a cumulative sum of $76,746,617.23 and N27, 808,882,120.55 being money allegedly obtained through a loan contract between the 1st defendant and the counter-claimants.

“The cause of action sought to be enforced by the counter-claim borders strictly on contract emanating from a loan transaction between the counter-claimants and the 1st defendant, which the applicants were not privy to.

“In addition, the transaction culminating in this suit was strictly between the counter-claimants and the first defendant with no direct link to the sixth and eighth defendants/applicants.

“No wrongdoing in any manner whatsoever has been alleged against the sixth and eighth defendants/applicants in the counter-claim to warrant their joinder to this suit.

“No trace of a reasonable cause of action against the applicants that make them necessary parties to the counter-claim,” the applicant maintained.