A Federal High Court in Lagos has summoned six top officials of Wema Bank Plc following contempt proceedings initiated against them by Heritage Bank in two suits involving Ondo State Government alleged judgment debts.
The officials are Wema Bank’s Chairman, Babatunde Kasali; Managing Director (MD), Ademola Adebise; Deputy Managing Director, Moruf Oseni; Executive Director, Wole Akinleye; Executive Director, Folake Sanu and Company Secretary Johnson Lebile.
They are to explain why “committal orders should not be made against them for flagrant disobedience” of court orders.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke made the order on Friday, February 14, 2020.
He gave the bank officials 72 hours from February 14, till Monday, February 17, 2020, to appear.
The order was sequel to two similar garnishee suits filed by Heritage Bank through its counsel Chief Ajibola Aribisala, SAN.
The first suit is against the Ondo State Government and its Attorney-General. The second is against Idanre Local Government Universal Basic Education Authority, Ondo State Government and its Attorney-General.
Heritage Bank said it obtained judgment against the two parties at an Ondo State High Court in the sum of N1billion out of which N600million has been paid, leaving a balance of about N400million.
It said the judgment against Idanre Local Government Universal Basic Education Authority is in the sum of N405.4 million.
It initiated garnishee proceedings against both parties in the two suits and secured an Order Nisi.
A decree nisi is a court order that will come into force at a future date unless a particular condition is met. If the condition is unmet, the ruling becomes a decree absolute, and is binding.
On December 6, 2019, the court made the order nisi against Wema bank absolute, attaching the principal judgment sum of N134 million.
According to the judgment creditors, Wema Bank deposed to an affidavit that the Ondo State Government has N745 million standing to its credit and same had been attached in compliance with the order of the court.
But Heritage Bank told the court that Wema Bank failed to comply with the order of the court to pay the money despite demands made by Aribisala for Heritage Bank.
Wema Bank explained in a letter that it was yet to comply because of a 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 Court’s Registrar to issue Form 48 – notice of consequence of disobedience of order of the court – against Wema Bank’s officers.
Aribisala told the court that its order was still 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.
On February 5, 2020 when the matter came up for hearing, Aribisala prayed the court to compel the officials presence by issuing a bench warrant against them.
But Wema Bank officials’ counsel Wemimo Ogunde SAN, opposed Aribisala.
Ogunde contended that the form 49 was filed and served on the parties but before then, Wema Bank had already filed an application for stay of execution pending appeal.
He said the record of appeal had already been entered at the Court of Appeal.
The court adjourned till February 14, for ruling.
In his ruling on the two suits on Friday, Justice Aneke held: “The said appeal lodged by the parties cited for contempt has nothing to do with the form 49 served on them for their failure to comply with the order of the court in respect to the order made absolute against Wema Bank Plc.
“Accordingly, the parties cited for contempt are hereby given 72 hours from today (Friday) till Monday 17th of February, 2020 to appear before the court to explain why committal order would not be made against them for flagrant disobedience of the extant positive orders of the court.”