Tuesday, June 28, 2016 7.21 AM / News
Hon. Justice Jude Kanyioh Dagat of the Federal High Court of Lagos, yesterday struck out Ecobank Nigeria’s petitions against Honeywell Group Limited and Anchorage Leisures Limited for abuse of court process and displaying bad faith.
The business of the court today, 27th June, 2016 was to hear pending applications in suits: FHC/L/CS/1571/2015 Ecobank v. Honeywell Group Limited and FHC/L/CS/1570/2015 Ecobank v Anchorage Leisures Limited which were the petitions for winding –up filed by Ecobank against these Honeywell/Anchorage on 16th October, 2015.
Honeywell/Anchorage filled Preliminary objection dated 23rd November 2015 challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter because the matter was an abuse of court process and in contempt of the subsisting order of Justice Idris on 10th August 2015, directing parties to maintain status quo ante bellum.
In order to stop this application from being heard, Ecobank thereafter filed an application, urging the court to stay further proceedings on Honeywell/Anchorage’s application pending the determination of the contempt proceedings filed by Honeywell/Anchorage before Justice Idris in Suit: FHC/ L/CS /1219/2015. Hon. Justice Dagat struck out this application because the contempt proceedings before Justice Idris was struck out.
Therefore the only pending application before him was Honeywell/Anchorage’s preliminary objection, which challenges the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter.
In its ruling, the court granted Honeywell/Anchorage’s application to strike out the petition of Ecobank for being an abuse of court process. On the following bases:
1. From Honeywell/ Anchorage’s statement of claim before Justice Idris, there is no doubt that the debt is disputed. For a company to be wound up there must be an ascertainable debt; the debt must have been due and company must have been unable to pay. Therefore where a debt is disputed Ecobank is not yet a creditor to bring a winding up proceedings.
2. A court faced with a petition to wind up a company must first determine if the petition was brought in good faith but this court cannot conclude that Ecobank’s petition was in good faith, because the fact of the case is that, Honeywell/Anchorage made payments pursuant to the agreement of 22nd July 2014.
3. Ecobank was aware that Honeywell/Anchorage was challenging the debt. Instead of Ecobank to sue for the recovery of the debt, Ecobank filed this petition to wind up the company. Until the substantive suit before Justice Idris is determined, it would be premature to commence winding up proceedings against Honeywell/Anchorage.
4. Ecobank’s petition is aimed at overreaching the powers of the Federal High court in the suit before Justice Idris.
5. Where two suits are instituted on the same subject matter between the same parties, the latter is an abuse of court process. Honeywell/Anchorage’s claim before Justice Idris is first in time, therefore the subsequent petition by Ecobank constitutes an abuse of court process.
6. The Supreme Court has made it clear that it would amount to a travesty of justice for any court to hear a matter that is already before another court of coordinate jurisdiction.
7. If the court proceeds with Ecobank’s petition, there will be a conflict of decisions by the courts which will not augur well for the judiciary.
8. It is not in the interest of justice to allow Ecobank’s petition to stand as the jurisdiction of the court has not been properly invoked.