A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has thrown out a N300 billion suit filed by Chairman of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services, Dr. Olawale Babalakin SAN and his five companies against the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), for freezing his bank accounts.Babalakin’s suit was dismissed for lack of merit with punitive fine of N10,000.
Babalakin and his companies, Bi-Courtney Limited, Chartered investment Limited, Resort International Limited and Roygate Properties Limited; instituted the suit against AMCON following an ex-parte order made on September 22, 2014, by Justice Okon Abang, in suit number FHC/L/CS/1361/2014, which stopped him from withdrawing money from all his bank accounts in the country.
In the suit, Dr. Babalakin and his companies had sought for an order of the court to direct AMCON to pay him a total sum of N300 billion as general damage and aggravated and exemplary damages.
The plantiffs had also sought for a declaration that as at September 22, 2014, AMCON’s offer letter dated May 7, 2014, cannot create and/or could not have created a new cause of action, either to him or the defendant as same arose from settlement process engaged in by them in order to resolve the dispute which was the subject matter of several court actions.
Babalakin and his companies also sought for a declaration that AMCON fraudulently misinterpreted and/or concealed material facts in order to procure the September 22, 2014 ex-parte order.
The Bi-Courtney chairman, in his evidence during the trial, said himself and his companies have suffered substantial losses including loss of business on the days and weeks following their inability to access their bank accounts, and loss of business owing to the lowering of their reputation and that of their businesses in the eyes of the general public and their business partners, which was as a result of AMCON’s publication.
In AMCON’s defence filed before the court by Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), it was stated that as a statutory body saddled with the responsibility of resolving non-performing loans in commercial banks in Nigeria, acted in good faith and in accordance with its statutory powers under its Act in order to recover the over N54Billion debt profile of Babalakin and his companies purchased the non-performing loans of Babalakin and his companies from various banks, following their inability to pay the said loans, and instituted recovery actions against them.
AMCON also stated further that following protracted litigation, both parties met and agreed on out of court settlement, which culminated in a debt settlement agreement and an offer letter dated May 7, 2014, was issued to the claimants, but they failed to adhere to the terms of the offer letter.
AMCON stated further that following the failure of the claimants to adhere to the terms of the letter of offer, and on legal advice from its solicitors, it instituted suit no. FHC/CS/1361/2014, to enforce the terms of offer letter, and that Justice Okon Abang on September 22, 2014, granted ex-parte Order of possession over properties belonging to Babalakin and his companies, and freezing orders over their bank accounts.
The defendant also stated that ex-parte order was however set aside by Justice Ibrahim Buba on the ground that the suit constituted an abuse of court process. And that dissatisfied with Justice Buba’s ruling, it filed an appeal in Appeal number CA/L/930/2014, before the Lagos division of Appeal Court, to upturn Justice Buba’s decision.
It added that while the appeal is still pending, the claimants filed this suit, it therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit for being abuse of court process, and that it does not disclosed a reasonable cause of action and is premature, and for lack of jurisdiction.
In dismissing the Babalakin’s suit, Justice Idris pronounced that:”It takes me to a very important issue I wish to address arising from the proceedings that led to this judgement. The issue has to do with the duty of a counsel to properly and fully represent his client. Once counsel accepts a brief from his client, he is under a solemn professional duty to properly and fully represent the client.
“As a repository of knowledge of law, counsel must work hard on each individual case he is handling, in terms of researching afresh and always keeping in touch with the facts of the case, especially at the trial stage. This is because he is duty bound by any strategy or procedure he adopts, and he cannot recline from it together with the consequences flowing therefrom.
“Although, the court may intervene in the Faces of an obvious incompetence, it can only do so if the intervention will not occasion a miscarriage of justice to the other side.
“In conclusion, I find no merit in this case and it is hereby dismissed. N10, 000, cost is awarded in favour of AMCON defendant against Babalakin and his companies.