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Court allows Customs to contest N2b judgment debt

By Joseph Onyekwere, Yetunde Ayobami Ojo, Ngozi Egenuka (Lagos) and Ameh Ochojila (Abuja)
01 February 2022   |   3:32 am
The Supreme Court has granted the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) board’s application to challenge the February 6, 2014 judgment of the Court of Appeal that affirmed a N2,048,737,443.57 judgment debt in favour of Innoson Nigeria Limited.

Nigerian Customs Service (NCS)

•Asks Navy to pay Ndubuisi Kanu’s benefits into dedicated account
•Grants Kaduna poly ex-rector to appeal ruling in N1b suit
•ExxonMobil goes against ruling on jurisdiction

The Supreme Court has granted the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) board’s application to challenge the February 6, 2014 judgment of the Court of Appeal that affirmed a N2,048,737,443.57 judgment debt in favour of Innoson Nigeria Limited.

A five-man panel of the court, in a unanimous ruling, upheld the prayers of Customs – the applicant canvassed through its counsel, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) – by a Motion on Notice filed on November 9, 2020.

The panel comprised Justices Olukayode Ariwoola, John Inyang Okoro, Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, Abdu Aboki and Tijani Abubakar.

Justice Aboki, who read the panel’s decision on January 14, 2022, agreed with the lead ruling of Justice Abubakar that Customs’ argument was meritorious.

The court held: “Having granted the application, therefore, the following orders are hereby made: “Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to appeal as an interested party against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division in appeal number CA/1/258/2011.

“Time is extended to the applicant to seek for leave to appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal on grounds of mixed law and facts.

“Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, on grounds of mixed law and facts.

“Time is extended to the applicant within which to appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division in suit No. CA/1/258/2011.”

The court also granted the applicant leave to raise new points and adduce fresh evidence in the appeal. The applicant was ordered to file its notice of appeal within 30 days from the day of judgment.

The first respondent – GTBank – was represented by Chief Femi Aribisala (SAN), while second respondent –Innoson – was represented by Prof. J.N.M. Mbadugha.

In the meantime, Justice Christopher Balogun of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja has ordered the Nigerian Navy to pay the entitlements of the retired late Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu to a dedicated interest-yielding account.

The court made the order in a suit filed by Mrs. Gladys Ndubuisi Kanu, yesterday, that the force should calculate the benefits of her departed husband and pay into the account.

In the case, marked LD/3685FPM/2021, the widow is seeking to be declared as the only legal wife of the late military officer.

The respondents are the first wife, Josephine Ndubuisi Kanu and the children, Kelly Kanu; Nigerian Navy, Simone Abiona (Nee Kanu), Andrey Joe-Ezigbo (nee Kanu), Paula Kanu and Karen Johnson (nee Kanu), Jeffery Kanu, Laura Kanu and Stephen Kanu.

The plaintiff also sought for an order of the court to declare that she is the only widow of the late Ndubuisi. The judge, therefore, adjourned hearing to February 7.

RELATEDLY, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, yesterday, granted the former rector of Federal Polytechnic, Kaduna, Prof. Idris Bugaji, a leave for an appeal against a preliminary ruling in a N 1 billion defamation suit brought against him by a staff in the Budget Office of the federation.

Justice Hamza Mu’azu granted the application by Bugaji’s counsel for extension of time to file their defence and a leave to appeal against the earlier ruling delivered by the court.

The judge had on September 28, 2021, held that the preliminary objection brought by the defendants’ counsel challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit as lacking in merit.

“I hold that the preliminary objection is misconceived and lacking in merit, and accordingly, fails and is hereby dismissed.”

ALSO, ExxonMobil Corporation has asked the Court of Appeal, Lagos to upturn the decision of the National Industrial Court refusing to stay its proceedings in a suit filed by one Paul Arinze for the wrongful termination of his employment by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and Exxon Mobil Corporation.

The firm’s appeal was sequel to an order made by Justice N. M. Esowe delivered on January 25, 2022 over jurisdiction.
The oil firm equally filed an application seeking to stay proceeding in the matter pending hearing and determination of an appeal it had filed at the appellate court.

The pending application, initiated by the law firm of Kenna Partners, led by Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), was against an earlier ruling of the NIC delivered on September 29, 2021, whereby the court elected to exercise jurisdiction over ExxonMobil Corporation.

Exxon Mobil Corporation had challenged the jurisdiction of the NIC on the grounds that its contract with Arinze was a simple contract and not an employment contract, governed by the laws and subject to the jurisdiction of the courts in the United States of America where Exxon Mobil Corporation is domiciled and carries out its operations.

The claimant, Arinze, through his counsel, Emeka Ozoani (SAN) of Emeka Ozoani & Co, argued that the claimant was co-employed by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and ExxonMobil Corporation, thus vesting the NIC with jurisdiction over both defendants.