IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA
IN THE OWERRI JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT OWERRI
BEFORE HIS LORDSHIP HONOURABLE JUSTICE I.S GALADIMA
DATE: 11th November 2020
SUIT NO: NICN/OW/5M/2020
DR. HILARY UCHENNA ONYENDI JUDGMENT CREDITOR/RESPOINDENT
FIRST BANK OF NIGERIA PLC GARNISHEE
1. MICHAEL OKPARA UNIVERSITY OF
AGRICULTURE UMUDIKE JUDGMENT DEBTORS/APPLICANTS
2. HON. MINISTER OF EDUCATION
THE MICHAEL OKPARA UNIVERSITY OF
AGRICULTURE UMUDIKE NIGERIA LTD INTERPLEADER/APPLICANT
· S.E. Nwadighoha for the Judgment Creditor/Respondent;
· Emmanuel Ukaegbu for the Judgment Debtors/Applicants;
· A. Atilola for the Garnishee Bank;
· Dayo Adu; Olagoke Odubunmi for the 3rd party/Applicant.
1. There are two applications to consider here. The first is by the judgment debtors and the second, by the interested 3rd party in these post execution proceedings which was granted leave to join in and be heard accordingly by this Court when I sat in the Abuja Division during the court’s vacation on 31/8/2020. The judgment debtors’ application was filed on 29/7/2020 and it is for a stay of execution of the judgment of this court made on 14/7/2015 and for an order to vacate the order absolute made against the garnishee on 16/7/2020; The 3rd party/applicant meanwhile, filed an interpleader summons on 7/8/2020. Essentially, it (the said 3rd party which is accordingly a limited liability company), ostensibly operates and owns an account with the garnishee bank as account number 3108588715 FBN, the content of which is now the subject of the dispute with this judgment creditor. This court had on that 31/8/2020 by an order of variation of the order absolute of 16/7/2020, ordered the garnishee bank to deposit with the Chief Registrar of this court, the sums allegedly contained in the said account, which is N5,614,948.87k pursuant to Order 36 rule 6 (1) of this court’s rules and that order was duly complied with by the deposit of two bank cheques on 1/9/2020. Subsequently, the garnishee bank was discharged by this court on the 28/10/2020 leaving behind this judgment creditor, the 3rd party applicant and the judgment debtors to argue and dispute whether the order absolute of 16/7/2020 be vacated or further varied in respect of the said N5,614,948.87k now in the possession of this court’s registry.
2. It must be stated that what precipitated these actions is this court’s pronouncement on 16/7/2020 wherein it disbelieved the garnishee bank’s deposition that the account number 3108588715 which is purportedly owned by Messrs. Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike Nigeria Ltd, is a separate entity from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike which is one of the judgment debtors in this suit. On that said 16/7/2020, this court had declared and made an order absolute against the garnishee, to pay the said judgment debt of N37,075,558.38 to the judgment creditor forthwith.
3. On the 22/7/2020, this court was again approached by the judgment creditor and he secured and was granted an order of enforcement and execution of the said order absolute, by sealing the bank’s branch premises in Owerri until the said judgment debt was paid to him.
4. After the said execution was effected and the bank’s main branch in Owerri sealed by order of this court, the garnishee, which is now represented by a new counsel, B. Atilade, Esq., and this 3rd party applicant represented by A. Adedipe, filed separate affidavits of urgency and motions for leave to apply to set aside and/or vacate that order absolute. This was done when this court was on vacation. The honorable, the President of this court had directed me pursuant to Order 21 rule 3 (1) of the rules of this court, to attend to and consider same as a matter of urgency and in view of the nature of the applications brought forth. Incidentally also, I was the vacation judge then. The garnishee bank had filed a motion dated 29/7/2020 seeking to vary the order absolute made against it and/or to vacate same in light of the fact that the said amount of N37,075,558.38 was not contained in that garnished account but a lesser sum of N5,614,948.87k. Its counsel had argued convincingly enough that there was need to vary the order of 22/7/2020 in the interest of justice and to vacate the sealing order made by this court since its business was gravely affected because of the closure and that it was repentant and willing to deposit the said lesser sum, to this court. Interestingly, the judgment creditor did not raise any objection to the grant of their application for variation and its subsequent discharge from these proceedings. Consequently, the garnishee bank was discharged without objection from these proceedings on 28/10/2020 having been satisfied that the order of deposit of the said N5,614,948.87k was fully complied with.
5. Now, the applications by the judgment debtors, the 3rd party/interested applicant and the various responses by the judgment creditor against them, were duly adopted by their respective counsel virtually via Zoom on 10/11/2020 and this ruling was immediately delivered by this court through the same medium.
6. As stated earlier, the judgment debtors filed a motion on notice on 29/7/2020. It is accordingly pursuant to order 17 and 47 of the rules of this court and it seeks the following reliefs:
a. An order granting the defendant/judgment debtor/applicant leave and extension of time to bring this application;
b. An order stating (sic: staying) execution of the judgment in suit number NICN/EN/132/2013 Hilary Uchenna Onyendi and MOUA and others delivered on 14/7/2015;
c. An order vacating the order absolute made by the court on 16/7/2020 in suit number NICN/OW/5M/2020 – having been obtained by deceit and made error (sic) of the true state of facts
d. And for such further order (s).
7. The application has 10 grounds which I reproduce hereunder as follows:
i. On the 14/7/2015, this court delivered judgment in suit number NICN/EN/132/2013 ordering the claimant to be reinstated and to pay all his outstanding salaries, allowances and other emoluments;
ii. The applicants (judgment debtors) in compliance with the judgment and orders of this court, recalled the respondent by a letter dated 11/11/2016 and his (sic: this) was brought to this (sic: his) knowledge though all efforts made to properly serve him was either evaded or unsuccessful;
iii. The respondent is aware that he has since 11/11/2016 been recalled;
iv. No garnishee process (sic) was served the applicants at any time in the course of the garnishee proceedings filed by the respondent;
v. The applicants were surprised when they were informed by the manager of First Bank PLC that an order absolute has been made by this court on 16/7/2020;
vi. These applicants would have brought to the knowledge of the court about his recall since 11/11/2016 if the garnishee processes had been served on them;
vii. That the respondent despite having knowledge of his recall, refused to commence work so as to have his salaries and allowances computed and sent to him;
viii. That the respondent deliberately refused to inform the court that he had since been recalled and the fact that he refused to commence duties;
ix. The respondent is at liberty to commence work and have his salaries and allowances computed and paid to him;
x. That the sum made absolute in the garnishee proceedings does not represent the correct sum the applicants owe the respondent, or which he is entitled to.
8. The said motion is supported by a 12-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one C.J. Nwawagba, three exhibits lettered A, B, and C and a written address.
9. Against this application, the judgment creditor/respondent filed a counter affidavit of 41 paragraphs and 6 exhibits. The same is equally accompanied by a written address made by his counsel, S.E. Nwadighoha.
10. Curiously, on 10/9/2020, the judgment debtors/applicants filed a further affidavit and again on 15/10/2020, it filed what is called a “further further affidavit of C.J. Nwawagba”.
11. Interestingly, not satisfied he was done, the judgment creditor/respondent had on 2/10/2020, filed what he titled a “further counter affidavit in opposition to further affidavit to the motion filed on 11/9/2020”. On 28/10/2020, the judgment creditor again filed what he titled a “further further counter affidavit in opposition to the further further affidavit”.
12. Perhaps I should first address the abnormality of the procedures adopted by both counsel for the judgment debtors/applicants and the judgment creditor/respondent. Firstly, it must be stated that the intendment of considering these post execution proceedings is never an attempt to sit on appeal over the valid judgment of this court which was made since 14/7/2015 by my learned brother Anuwe, J but to entertain the genuineness of the garnishee’s, 3rd party’s and the judgment debtors’ various applications post the decree order absolute made on 16/7/2020. This court cannot and shall not reopen evidence on what had already been determined and the judgment of the court still remains valid and enforceable against these judgment debtors no matter how displeased they might be against it. Secondly, this court had on the 16/7/2020 made an order absolute sequel to its prior order nisi. It means that unless this court was inveigled into granting same; or the garnishee was not served with the decree order nisi; or where the trial court used the wrong legal consideration to arrive at the decision to make the order absolute; or if this court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to make that order absolute, the pronouncement is thus final, and this court will therefore become functus officio with respect to the cause.
13. More importantly however, having filed a motion on notice and an accompanying affidavit in support of same, the judgment creditor is allowed and enjoined to file a counter affidavit and if it becomes absolutely necessary to address any new issues raised in the counter affidavit, the applicants may make a further and better affidavit in rejoinder – See Order 17 rule 11. Our rules do not however, support the filing of what is referred to as a “further further affidavit” and a “further further counter affidavit in opposition to the further further affidavit”. There is no question of doubt in my mind that those two processes ambitiously filed by these counsel, are in fact and in law, grievous abuses of this court’s judicial processes. Accordingly, without even batting an eyelid, those two processes mentioned above are discarded and same struck out purely because they constitute gross abuse of this court’s processes, and I so hold.
14. In the case of ZENITH BANK PLC V. CHIEF ARTHUR JOHN AND OTHERS (2015) LPELR 24315 (SC), my lord Peter-Odili, JSC stated that “it is stating the obvious that a garnishee order absolute means an executed judgment and being a completed act, one wonders how an order of stay can either be ordered or carried out”. In UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC V. BONEY MARCUS IND. LIMITED AND OTHERS (2005) LPELR – 3394 (SC), Akintan, JSC held that – during the period between when the order nisi and the order absolute are made, the matter would still be pending before the court. in other words, the proceedings would still be at the interlocutory stage. But once the order absolute is made, there would be nothing left before the court in the matter. The court has, at that stage, completely determined the matter between the parties as far as the proceedings are concerned. The court would be functus officio. There would be nothing left to be determined by the court. The question of the proceedings, at that stage, being interlocutory, would therefore not arise”.
15. On the strength of the above authorities alone, this court shall without hesitation, hold at this stage that the applicants’ prayer to stay execution of the judgment of this court which was delivered on 14/7/2015, must fail. The stay which they accordingly seek is impossible of grant since this court already made a decree order absolute in these proceedings prior the filing of this application. Their application cannot be considered interlocutory as there are no proceedings pending before this court anymore. Accordingly, the second arm of their prayers is outrightly rejected and same is thus dismissed.
16. Having already been granted leave to file this application, the only prayer left for determination is the judgment debtors’ 3rd prayer which is for an order to vacate the decree order absolute made on the 16/7/2020 on the alleged grounds that the same was obtained under deceit and a misrepresentation of the true facts. In the supporting affidavit filed on 29/7/2020, the deponent deposed that the judgment debtors wrote the judgment creditor a letter of recall to duty dated 11/11/2016 (exhibit A) and had attempted to serve him since 2016 without success. He further deposed that the judgment creditor deliberately refused to resume duties despite the said letter written but unserved on him, to date. The deponent also stated on oath that the judgment is not entitled to the amount he is claiming as stated in the decree absolute. They therefore believe they are entitled to having the said order set aside – see paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 10 of the affidavit in support of their application.
17. In response, the judgment creditor stated that it was untrue that the judgment debtors recalled him to resume following this court’s judgment in that direction on 14/7/2015. He said that it was also untrue that the applicants made any attempt to contact him. He said that he even caused his solicitor, Obianwu Obiora, SAN, write a letter to the judgment debtors in 2015 which letter was never responded to (exhibit 1). He said that he wrote a letter personally to them on 2/5/2017 (exhibit 2) and made countless visits to the office of the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar of the 1st judgment debtor, and even attempted to commence committal proceedings against them by forms 48 and 49; despite this, they still refused to appear before this court and obstinately refused to comply with the said judgment. He exhibited exhibits 3 and 4 which are acknowledgement copies of the processes served the judgment debtors to appear before this court. That on 28/8/2019 and 23/10/2019, his solicitor again wrote the judgment debtors to demand for the judgment creditor’s salary which was again rebuffed by the judgment debtors. He referred to exhibits 5 and 6 in that regard. He further deposed to the fact that the judgment debtors were served with the order nisi through one Agha Michael I., the administrative assistant to the 1st judgment debtor on 16/7/2020 despite the judgment debtors’ counsel’s refusal to accept service of the said process from the court’s bailiff in open court when the said order was made. He said the judgment of this court has remained unenforced against the judgment debtors for 5 years running to date and that they are making it extremely difficult for him to enjoy the fruit of his judgment. That they have not filed any appeal against the judgment of this court before now and so there is no reason to set aside the order absolute made by this court. That especially the 1st judgment debtor has remained a contemptnor and has willfully refused to obey this court’s valid judgment.
18. In a surprising twist, the 1st judgment debtor deposed in its further affidavit of 11/9/2020, that the only monies owed the judgment creditor is as contained in exhibit cc attached to the said further affidavit. In relying on paragraph 4, the deponent C.J Nwanagba stated that “exhibit “cc” is the proper computation of the respondent’s salaries and entitlements in the 1st applicant from the time he was last paid to 11/11/2016 when he was recalled. The respondent will be paid as soon as he makes available to the applicants his account details.” The deponent went on to add that the reason it failed to file that exhibit “cc” along with the first affidavit as it was not yet ready by the time the motion on notice was filed on 29/7/2020.
19. In the light of this admission alone, I doubt if the court can now be faulted for refusing the application by the judgment debtors to set aside its garnishee order absolute made on 16/7/2020. More so, from the facts and circumstances of this case as reproduced carefully from the various affidavit evidence sworn before this court, it is quite obvious that they were aware of the order nisi made previously by this court on 5/3/2020 and in fact, this court must take judicial notice of the fact that the judgment debtors’ counsel, Emmanuel Ukaegbu, was in open court although for a different matter, on the very day the order nisi was obtained by the judgment creditor’s counsel. The judgment debtors were in fact, served with the order nisi through one Agha Michael, admin assistant and so it was most callous for the judgment debtors to deny that the order absolute subsequently obtained on 16/7/2020 was fraudulent. This is besides the fact that there is no particulars of any deceit employed by the judgment creditor to obtain the said order. The facts deposed to in support of their application thus pall in direct comparison with those set out by the judgment creditor. The judgment of a court remains valid and enforceable against a judgment debtor until set aside by an appellate court. There is so far no suggestion by these judgment debtors that they had appealed against the judgment of 14/7/2015 per Anuwe, J. Besides, if they intended to merely admit that they are willing to pay the judgment debt owed this judgment creditor, the necessary inference to draw by their filing this application, is that they do in fact intend to further frustrate the judgment creditor and to waste the precious time of this court to consider needless applications. On the strength of what seems more probable of acceptance therefore, I believe the judgment creditor’s accounts as deposed in his counter affidavit that the judgment debtors have no intention of abiding by the judgment of this court whatsoever. There are irreprehensible reasons therefore to find that the only remaining prayer sought in the application of 29/7/2020, must fail and the same is therefore refused.
20. Accordingly, the judgment debtors’ motion on notice is hereby denied and the same is dismissed entirely as it was baseless and a deliberate abuse of this court’s process and resources. A cost of N100,000.00 only is thus awarded to the judgment creditor.
21. Reverting back to the interpleader summons filed on 7/8/2020 by the 3rd party applicant in the Lagos Division of this court, this applicant seeks for the following orders:
i. An order setting aside the execution of the garnishee order absolute against and attaching account number 3108588715 in the name of MOUAU Nigeria limited which account is in the custody of the garnishee, the applicant being a separate and independent corporate personality distinct from the 1st judgment debtor;
ii. An order that the sum of N2,766,270.66 standing to the credit of the applicant in its account number 3108588715 maintained with the garnishee in the name of MOUAU Nigeria Limited, belongs to the applicant and not the judgment debtors;
iii. An order of court discharging account number 3108588715 owned by the applicant from the ambit, application and execution of the garnishee order absolute made on 16/7/2020, the applicant not being one of the judgment debtors nor named in the said garnishee order absolute;
iv. An order that the sum of N2,766,270.66 standing to the credit of the applicant in its account number 3108588715 maintained with the garnishee, belongs to the applicant and not the judgment debtors.
22. The grounds proffered as basis for this application are that:
a. The applicant’s account and the sum of N2,766,270.66 contained therein do not belong to the judgment debtors;
b. The MOUAU Nigeria Limited do not have the sum of N37,075,558.38 garnisheed in the account with the garnishee;
c. The applicant is a company duly registered by the CAC on 2/2/2001 which is a distinct legal personality from the 1st judgment debtor being a public institution;
d. The garnishee order absolute was made without jurisdiction;
e. A court of law lacks jurisdiction to attach the account of a 3rd party other than that of the judgment debtor.
23. In support of its application is an affidavit of 6 paragraphs duly deposed to by the applicant’s counsel Olagoke Odubunmi and 6 exhibits lettered A to F. The applicant again filed a further affidavit on 2/11/2020 but this time around, deposed to by Paul Atinsola the practice manager in the law firm of Famsville Solicitors in Lagos and accompanied same with a written address understandably meant to contain its counsel’s reply on points of law.
24. The judgment creditor filed a counter affidavit of 39 paragraphs against the interpleader application on 4/9/2020. Along with it is a written brief of argument filed on the same day.
25. What is essentially contained in the affidavit accompanying the interpleader summons are the following abridged facts:
i. That the deponent was informed by Professor Okezie Chukwukere that on 20/7/2020, he (Professor Chukwukere) was informed by the garnishee bank of the garnishee order absolute against the account number 3108588715 which is in the name of The MOUAU Nigeria Limited.
ii. That the said company was duly registered with the CAC as a distinct and separate legal entity from the 1st judgment debtor which is a public institution.
iii. That the company as applicant, was never a party to the proceedings in this suit and same was never named in any of the processes filed hitherto.
iv. That the applicant was not aware of the pending garnishee proceedings.
v. That the applicant does not have any funds belonging to the judgment debtor.
vi. That there is currently a lien of N2,900,000.00 on that same account in respect of another order nisi made by this court in NICN/OW/21M/2019.
vii. That the applicant’s bank account contains only the sum of N2,766,270.66.
viii. That the judgment creditor misled this court to make an order absolute without it having the jurisdiction so to do.
ix. That it will be in the interest of justice to set aside the order absolute made against this applicant’s account.
26. In his counter affidavit, the following facts were stated thus:
i. That this court, not swayed by the fact that the said applicant is a separate entity from the 1st judgment debtor, made an order absolute against the account in contention and had ordered the bank to pay the said judgment sum within 48 hours of the order.
ii. That as a result of the garnishee’s refusal to abide by that order, this court granted an order to levy execution by sealing of the bank’s branch in Owerri which order was subsequently conditionally discharged and the garnishee ordered to pay the said sum of N5,614,948.87k to the Chief Registrar for lodgment in an interest yielding account.
iii. That it was dishonorable for a lawyer to swear on oath on facts which are within the knowledge of the said Professor Okezie Chukwukere who seems to be hiding away from a purported fraud associated with setting up a separate account from that of the institution for dubious reasons.
iv. That the said account is utilized by the 1st judgment debtor as the name of the account suggests.
v. That the said account is maintained in spite of the federal government’s policy to maintain a treasury single account by all public institutions in Nigeria.
vi. That the account is floated for personal gains with the consent of the garnishee bank and through the connivance of the institution’s bursar and Vice Chancellor.
vii. That the M.D. of MOUAU Micro Finance Bank, Bashir Ogungbami informed the deponent that the account had been previously used for fraudulent activities by the VC and Bursar of the institution.
viii. That it was unfair for the garnishee to shield the applicant and to commit perjury in the face of this court.
ix. That it is immaterial that the applicant is named in any process or is a party hitherto to these proceedings as the monies contained in that account belong to the 1st judgment debtor.
x. That exhibit A attached to the applicant’s affidavit is not certified by the CAC and same is illegible and unsafe of reliance by this court.
xi. That the applicant had admitted that this same account was subject of another garnishee order nisi before this court in suit no NICN/OW/21M/2019 – OHAKALAM V. 1ST BANK NIGERIA PLC.
xii. That the same account was used in recovering the judgment debts owed in two other garnishee proceedings wherein this same counsel for the judgment creditor here, was able to execute the creditors’ monies from this same account.
xiii. That this applicant never challenged the order absolute made against this same account in other proceedings before now.
xiv. That this applicant is a contemptnor who seeks to elude paying the judgment debt owed by the judgment debtors.
xv. That the execution here is concluded and so it will be in the interest of justice to refuse the application to set same aside.
27. The further affidavit of 2/11/2020, contains the following summarized facts:
i. That all the depositions contained in the counter affidavit are falsehoods.
ii. That the applicant is a company limited by the shares of the holders of that company and not owned by a single individual.
iii. That the applicant has the right to elect who deposes to its affidavits.
iv. That the applicant’s counsel is in Lagos which necessitated him to file the deposition at the Lagos Division and giving the urgency of same, it was impracticable to have any other person make the depositions before the application could be filed timorously.
v. That the applicant is merely a university-based consultancy firm and it was ridiculous to allege that it generated over N2billion in its account without prove of such claim and it was equally untrue in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that the same account is used to perpetrate fraud or the illegal laundering of monies.
vi. That the memorandum of association tendered as an exhibit, indicates the separate and distinct nature of the applicant from the 1st judgment debtor institution.
vii. That the question of the propriety or otherwise of the applicant’s registration as a limited liability company cannot be determined by this court as it lacks the appropriate jurisdiction to so do and that the appropriate forum to raise that question, is the federal high court.
viii. That the said exhibit A attacked by the respondent for being illegible and uncertified, can in fact be relied upon by this court by virtue of section 12 (2) (b) of NICA 2006.
ix. That this court had improperly placed a lien on this same account in those suits mentioned by the respondent and that this applicant has taken steps in remedial.
x. That there was nothing on the face of exhibit A produced by the respondent, to indicate that the First Bank Cheque No. 05642000 dated 22/1/2020 emanated from the account in contention here and so the averments to that regard must be discountenanced by this court.
xi. That it will be in the overall interest of justice to grant this application.
28. I have read through the written arguments as well as the authorities cited by both sides. I shall, where necessary, refer to portions of their submissions in the course of making my findings. I have equally thoroughly perused the facts deposed to by the respective deponents in the affidavits above analyzed. The issue to determine is whether the applicant is justified in seeking to set aside the garnishee order absolute made by this court on the 16/7/2020?
29. This court has maintained a fairly straight stand with respect to applications like this one in which a third party seeks to be excluded from the garnishee proceedings on the grounds that the account attached did not belong to the judgment debtor, but to a separate and distinct person or body corporate. For instance, in NELLY NWACHUKWU V. OSISOMA NGWA LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCIL (unreported) NICN/OW/4M/2017 ruling delivered on 22/11/2018, this court refused to accept the view that the accounts of the local government’s Town Planning Authority which was supposedly established by the law which created it to be a separate entity from the local government, cannot be attached for the purpose of execution of a valid judgment of this court by way of garnishee proceedings.
30. In HON. JONAH MBA AND OTHERS V. ABA SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND OTHERS (unreported) suit number NICN/OW/6M/2017; OHAKIM V. IMO STATE GOVERNMENT AND 3 OTHERS (NICN/OW/59/2014), this court consistently held that by whatever name an account is opened, once it belongs to a department or parastatal of government, the account is attachable, it still being a government account. As such, where the judgment debtor is a proximate owner of the accounts sought to be attached, it becomes irrelevant that it is in the name of a third party who was not named in the original suit. (see also my learned brother Arowosegbe, J’s decision in NNAMDI ELUWA AND 13 ORS V. UMUAHIA SOUTH LGC AND OTHERS (suit no NICN/OW/1M/2018) where he stated that: “in all, the accounts of the third person, who is just a proximate and nominal owner, is garnishable in law, to satisfy the judgment debt in question; the Umuahia South Local Government being part and parcel of the executive arm of the Abia State Government”.
31. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see that the name of the 1st judgment debtor is the same as the applicant’s, which is according to it, a limited liability company duly registered with the CAC. It is not an easily surmountable task in any case, for the applicant to dissuade this court to believe that the 1st judgment debtor, is not the proximate owner of the account in contention when every evidence adduced by the applicant suggest otherwise. For instance, an exhibit attached to the applicant’s counsel’s application for change of counsel filed on 7/8/2020, shows that the counsel was authorized to represent the applicant by letter dated 6/8/2020. Meanwhile, the said letter was made on a letter head which is though in the name of MICHAEL OKPARA UNIVERSITY NIGERIA LIMITED, but the name, designation and addresses of the Vice Chancellor and his phone numbers as well as those of Professor Chukwukere A. Okezie, are boldly provided for at the top of the letter head used for making the said letter. This is notwithstanding the fact that their names are not so contained in the memorandum of association which the applicant exhibited in this application. It is difficult therefore to reconcile how the applicant represents to the whole world that the alleged incorporated entity is in control and management of the Vice Chancellor of the 1st judgment debtor by name Professor Francis O. Otunta and Professor Chukwukere A. Okezie (as both names boldly appear on the letter head of the company), whereas in its memorandum of association, these names are not provided anywhere as shareholders of the said applicant company. Without even determining the credibility of the said exhibit A attached to their application, that illegible piece of evidence purportedly meant to be a document of prove of incorporation of this applicant, does not even support the applicant’s claim that it is a separate entity from the 1st judgment debtor and so its account should not be made the subject of any garnishee proceedings. This will be amply understood in the face of exhibit E attached to the application which is a statement of account of the disputed account number 3108588715 from the period of 1/12/2019 to 27/7/2020 wherein this court legitimately and satisfactorily, ordered payments from the account in satisfaction of judgment debts owed by the 1st judgment debtor here in respect of other matters. For instance, in one of the entries against 22/1/2020, the sum of N3,676,268.69 was withdrawn and paid to one Rev (Dr.) Chinedum E. Nwadighoha in satisfaction of this court’s garnishee order absolute. The entries also suggest other payments made in satisfaction of other costs ordered against the 1st judgment debtor and for the payment of legal fees. Having suppressed these obvious facts from this court, one wonders if they can now enjoy an equitable favour of this sort? I do not think the applicant approached this court with a clean hand and for that reason (notwithstanding the others above), the application must fail, and I so hold.
32. It is therefore pointless for this court to consider the question of the propriety of this applicant to incorporate a company bearing the same name as the 1st judgment debtor and whether the said account is fraudulent and a conduit to perpetrate laundering. This, I am sure, is a matter that can be appropriately handled in a court with the proper jurisdiction.
33. Consequently and in the light of all my findings above, I am not satisfied that there is justifiable cause to vacate or set aside the order absolute made in this suit on the 16/7/2020 which was varied on the 7/8/2020 for the sum of N5,614,948.87k already in possession of the Chief Registrar of this Court. The applicant’s impleader fails and same is dismissed with N100,000.00 cost to the judgment creditor for being a deliberate, willful, and conscious attempt to derail and unduly prolong these proceedings.
34. I therefore order the immediate release of the cheques in possession of the Chief Registrar of this court to the judgment creditor. The garnishee is consequently ordered to within 24 hours from the date of pronouncement of this ruling, to release the sum of N5,614,948.87k to the judgment creditor through any means or accounts of his choosing. The total costs of N200,000.00 ordered against these applicants, must be paid by these applicants within 30 days of this ruling.
35. This ruling is entered accordingly.
Delivered in Owerri this 10th November 2020.
Hon. Justice Ibrahim Suleiman Galadima.