By Benjamin Idakwo
Federal High Court sitting in Lagos reinforced its order compelling seven officials of Wema Bank officials cited for contempt to appear before the court on Tuesday to explain why committal to prison order should not be made against them.
Recall that when the matter was mentioned on Monday last week, only the Secretary of the bank, Johnson Lebile, was present.
Lebile told the court that the chairman of the bank, Babatunde Kasali travelled abroad, why other Directors ordered to appear before the court today are not available.
He explained to the court that the bank refused to obey the order of the court to pay the judgement sum because the bank had filed an appeal against the ruling of the court and also filed stay of execution of the judgement of the court.
However, the lawyer to the bank officials cited for contempt, Mr. Wemimo Ogunde, suggested to the court that he could advise Wema Bank to pay the judgement sum into the account of the Chief Registrar of the court, since there was appeal against the judgement of the court and application for stay of execution of the said judgement and other pending application so that the outcome of the appeal would not be made nugatory.
However, the counsel to Heritage Bank, Chief Ajibola Aribisala SAN, in a counter argument told the court that the business of the day was for the parties cited for contempt to appear before the court to explain why they should not be sent to prison for flagrant disobedience of order of the court.
He urged the court to issue bench warrant against those officials that were not in court, while the Company’s Secretary present in court should be sent to prison to show that the court was not a toothless bulldog.
In his reaction, Ogunde, while citing certain rules of the court said last Friday, the court issued order compelling the officers of Wema Bank cited for contempt to appear before the court and that by virtue of the rule of the court Sundays and public holidays were not to be counted, saying that in view of this provision, the time for them to appear would expire tomorrow.
After listening to the two parties, the presiding Judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke reinforced his earlier order for the parties cited for contempt to appear Tuesday, 18th of February, 2020.
Last Friday Justice Aneke ordered that Wema Bank Plc and its six officials cited for contempt for disobeying the order of the court should appear before the court – (today) Monday 17th day of February, 2020 to explain why they should not be sent to prison for flagrant disobedience of the extant positive orders of the court.
The affected officials of the bank are The Managing Director, Ademola Adebise; Chairman, Babatunde Kasali; Deputy Managing Director, Moruf Oseni; Executive Director, Wole Akinleye; Executive Director, Folake Sanu and the Company Secretary, Johnson Lebile.
The order of the court was sequel to two different similar garnishee suits filed before the court by a Lagos lawyer, Chief Ajibola Aribisala, SAN on behalf of Heritage Bank; the first one against Ondo State Government and the Attorney General of the state, and the second, against Idanre Local Government Universal Basic Education Authority, Ondo State Government and Attorney General of Ondo State.
Heritage Bank having obtained judgement against the two parties at an Ondo State High Court in the sum of N1billion out of which N600 million has been paid leaving balance of about N600 million, while the judgement against Idanre Local Government Universal basic Education Authority is in the sum of N405,431,460 .98.
Heritage Bank then initiated garnishee proceeding against the parties in the two suits.
On 6th of December, 2019 the court made the order against Wema bank Plc absolute. attaching the principal judgement sum of 134,034,175.41; Wema bank Plc, thereafter deposed to affidavit that Ondo State Government has N744,771,993.3 standing to its credit and same has been attached in compliance with the order of the court, but the bank refused to comply with the order of the court to pay the money despite the demand made by Chief Aribisala SAN on behalf of Heritage Bank.
However, Wema Bank, in its response letter claimed not to comply with the order of the court based on the notice of Appeal and Motion for stay of execution filed by the Ondo State Government at the Court of Appeal.
Thereafter, Heritage Bank caused the Registrar of the court to issue form 48, Notice of consequence of disobedience of order of the court against the officers of the bank cited for contempt, still the order of the court was not obeyed, hence the need for the issuance of form 49 asking the parties cited for contempt to show cause why order of committal should not be made against them for flagrantly disobeying the orders of the court.