Supreme Court turns down Stanbic IBTC’s request to set aside N2.5bn judgment

A five-man panel of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Musa Dattijo Muhammad, John Inyang Okoro, Amiru Sanusi, Paul Adamu Galinje and Uwani Musa Abba Aji, have in a unanimous agreement, refused to set aside N2.5 billion in damages judgment against Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc as requested by the bank.

The court also awarded a cost of N500, 000.00 against the bank.

The bank through its lawyers; Mr. O. Ayanlaja (SAN) and Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), had approached the apex court on January 18, 2019 asking the Supreme Court to dismissed judgment in an Appeal suit delineated SC/535/2013; Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC against Longterm Global Capital Ltd. and Mr. Patrick Akinkuotu, and set it down for rehearing on its merits.

The financial institution argued several grounds for the relief sought which includes the argument that the court reached its decision without a consideration of its brief of argument at the lower court on September 10, 2011 on the ground that the brief was not the exact replica of exhibit “AA1” as ordered by the lower court on September 14, 2011.

The decision of the court that the applicant did not seek leave of the lower court to file another brief of argument different from exhibit AA1 was based on the oversight by this court of the order of the court below dated October 8, 2012, contained at pages 1675 – 1676 of the records of appeal.

And that the court reached its decision based on its conclusion that the applicant did not seek leave of the court below to file the additional grounds 4 and 5 of the appellant’s amended notice of appeal.

“Interest of justice in that Appeal No SC/535/2013 should be determined on the basis of the full case put forward by the appeal based on consideration by this court of, inter alia, all its grounds of appeal and the brief of argument filed by the applicant in the court below on September 20, 2011.

However, the respondent’s lawyer, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN), presented their written address dated and filed on April 23, 2019 and for determination formulated the issue whether the applicant has established that there are special or exceptional circumstances warranting the setting aside of the judgment delivered by this court on January 18, 2019 in Appeal No SC./535/2013.

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He submitted that the court can set aside its decision “as decided in Skenconsult Ltd V. Ukey(1981)1 SC 6, Okafor & Ors V. A. G; Anambra State & Ors(1991) 6 NWLR (PT.206)659. Again, that by Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court rules and the case of Nigerian Army V. Major Jacob Iyela (2008) LPELR – 2014 (SC), this court cannot set or vary its judgment after delivery since it would have become functus officio.

“Furthermore, by Order 2 Rule 29(1) of the Supreme Court Rules, the Applicant’s application is incompetent having taken steps by paying N500,000.00 costs to the Respondents. In the same vein, that the application is an abuse of court process,” he argued.

The five-man panel of the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that although there are instances where the Supreme Court can reverse itself, it is not in the instant case.

Delivering the lead judgment in dismissing the application, Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji, said, “I cannot but fully agree with the submission of the learned counsel to the respondents that this application is frivolous, baseless, scandalous and contemptuous to be dismissed.

“There is a synergy of concurrence in reasoning and decisions from the trial court upward that this case was decided on its merits and smacks of any oversight or miscarriage of justice, thus cannot be reviewed and therefore does not fall within the genre and the circumstances of judgments to be set aside.

“In a proceeding which is ab initio a nullity, nothing can be set aside out of it as there is nothing legally binding on it. One cannot build something on nothing and expect it to stand; it will certainly collapse,” he ruled.

Also, Justice Amiru Sanusi held that, “in this instant application, it has not been shown in the averments contained the affidavit supporting the motion, that there is a mistake borne out of Slip Rule or Pencil Rule as its otherwise known that would justify the interference or varying by this court and there was such mistake on which this court will apply Slip Rule to correct such mistake. There is no point saying that none of the conditions that would justify the setting aside by this court of its judgment earlier delivered on March 15, 2019.

“The finality of this court’s decision cannot and should never be compromised. The moment this court sets undeserved or unwarranted precedent by indiscriminately setting aside its own decision in the absence of special and compelling reason to do so, will certainly amount to set dangerous precedent which will surely open flood gate for parties to undeservedly filing similar applications and will thereby continue to bring no end to litigations,” he said.

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