N5.5b debt: Court summons Oba Otudeko to appear as witness
Posted on:7 February 2018
Dr Oba Otudeko, an alter ego of Honeywell Group Plc has been ordered to appear in court and give evidence, in respect of an alleged N5.5billion debt allegedly owed Ecobank Nigeria Plc.
The order was issued by Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court Lagos while delivering a ruling in a suit instituted by Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, and its sister companies - Anchorage Leisures Ltd and Siloam Global Ltd against Ecobank Nigeria Plc challenging the alleged indebtedness. The judge directed personal service of the subpoena/witness summons on Otudeko.
When the case came up on Wednesday, counsel representing Ecobank, Mr O.A Divine from the law firm of Mr Kunle Ogunba (SAN), informed the court that he had two applications dated January 26 and 29 respectively, but urged the court to allow him move the application dated January 26, which is seeking for a stay of proceedings in the suit.
In his response, plaintiff's counsel Mr Bode Olanipekun, having confirmed receipt of the said applications, urged that the application of January 29 be dismissed if the defendant was not inclined to moving it, adding that he was prepared to withdraw his objection if the defendant is prepared to move the applications.
Consequently, the court struck out the application dated January 29, and asked the defence to move the application dated January 26.
In moving the application for stay of proceedings, defence counsel averred that the application was supported by a 19 paragraphs affidavit, as well as a written address filed on same date. According to Mr Divine, the main issue of the application, is that, on December 21, 2017, the court had delivered a ruling in which it refused Ecobank's motion for stay of proceedings, notwithstanding its notice of appeal.
He averred that the applicant being disatisfied by the ruling, had filed a notice of appeal before the court, urging it to grant same, as it does not share similar jurisdiction with the court of appeal. He contended that if the application is not granted, it will render nugatory the outcome of the appeal it filed.
In opposing the application with a 20 paragraph counter affidavit, Olanipekun argued that firstly, the applicant’s affidavit in support of his motion, had no seal attached, adding that it is a requirement of rules 10 of the rules of professional conduct.
He further argued that reliefs three of the applicant’s interlocutory application, is for a stay of proceedings in the trial court, contending that the trial court cannot grant the final relief which the applicant is asking the Appellate court to grant.
Besides, he argued that the applicant had not also exhibited due diligence as they have not even transmitted their records of appeal, adding that the appeal predicating the instant one, was not even ripe for hearing.
He urged the court to dismiss the application, and order the applicant to open his case and call his witness, so that the case could proceed.
In his ruling, Justice Idris held that having taken a cursory look at the records before him, the court is of the view that the reliefs sought by the applicant are to be decided by the appellate court. The application was accordingly struck out by the court.
When asked to call his witness, the defence counsel told the court that it intended to call the arrow head of Honeywell group, Dr. Oba Otudeko, as its first witness.
He remimded the court that a subpoena had been issued on the witness, who fully had knowledge of the summons, but had decided to ignore same.
Divine then urged the court to grant an adjournment, to enable the witness appear in court and give evidence in the case, failing which he will be moving the court to issue a bench warrant for his arrest and production in court.
In response, Olanipekun argued that the said subpoena may only have been served on the intended witness recently, and not earlier, and urged the court to look at its record.
He submitted that it was a ploy to further frustrate the suit, since the defence had a second witness it could call instead of the first.
After perusing at the records, the court held that the subpoena was only served on February 6, on a third party, and not personally on Oba Otudeko.
Consequently the judge ordered thus; “In the light of the above, I will redirect that proper service of the subpoena be effected personally on the witness, to enable him attend court, and I urge counsel to co-operate in this light,” The court thereafter adjourned the case till February 8 for continuation of hearing