Speaking the Nations Mind

Appeal Court Reverses Alleged N3.5bn Debt in Favour of Ecobank

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*Honeywell Group heads to Supreme Court

The Court of Appeal in Lagos yesterday upturned the judgment of the Federal High Court which last year cleared Honeywell Group of owing Ecobank Nigeria PLC the sum of N3.5 billion.

The appellate court in a judgment delivered in the protracted case, held that the case of Ecobank had merit and consequently ruled in its favour.

Ecobank had approached the appellate court to challenge the judgment of the lower court against it.

The lower court had in its judgment delivered in May 2019, held that operating companies of Honeywell Group were not in any way indebted to Ecobank.

Reacting to the judgment yesterday, Honeywell Group indicated that it would approach the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

Counsel to Honeywell Group, Mr. Olabode Olanipekun (SAN), gave the indication shortly after the appellate court’s judgment.

Honeywell had in 2015 filed a suit against Ecobank, asking the court to determine whether or not its three subsidiaries, Anchorage Leisures Ltd, Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, and Siloam Global Limited were still indebted to Ecobank after having reached an agreement to pay the sum of N3.5billion as full and final settlement of the companies’ indebtedness.

The lower court in its judgment however held that the company was not in any way indebted to the bank having liquidated the said loan.

Also speaking, Honeywell Group’s General Counsel, Olasumbo Abolaji, said the company remains convinced that it has a compelling case and it is ready to appeal the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

“Litigants can seek relief up to the Supreme Court. Consequently, the decision of the Court of Appeal is definitely not final on this matter”, she said.

She reminded our correspondent that in the course of the court action, at least 10 decisions had been the subject of appeals both at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, adding that Honeywell largely recorded victories at those stages based on the strength of its arguments. “We believe in the Nigerian Judicial System and we will take our case further to the Supreme Court,” she concluded.

In her testimony at the lower court during the trial, Honeywell Group’s Chief Finance Officer, Oluwakemi Owasanoye told the court that by an agreement reached at a meeting held on July 22, 2013, the bank agreed to merge the collective indebtedness of Honeywell’s three subsidiaries, which amounted to N3.5billion with the negotiations anchored by Honeywell Group Limited.

Owasanoye added that part of the agreement reached with the bank was that N500 million must be paid immediately, while the balance of N3 billion would be paid before the exit of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) examiners from the bank, without any specific stipulation on number of tranches.

She stated that Honeywell complied with the terms of the agreement, and thereafter wrote to inform the bank of its compliance and the need for the bank to formally discharge the company of any further obligation.

The Chief Finance Officer, stated that the bank in its reply to the letter did not raise any objections. Honeywell, she said, was however surprised when the bank proceeded to demand for further payments in respect of the debt which had been fully liquidated for over a year.

She further stated in her testimony that when the dispute arose, the Company referred the matter to the Bankers’ Committee which resolved the matter in favour of Honeywell.

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