Court stops Access Bank from recovering £654m from Akingbola

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The Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos on Monday barred Access Bank Plc. from enforcing the judgement of a London Court compelling a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola, to pay it £654 million.

Justice Chukwujeku Aneke, ruling in a suit filed by Access Bank to enforce the judgement on Akingbola, held that the verdict of the London court is not enforceable.

Access Bank had approached the court following the dismissal of a similar application by Justice Babajide Candide-Johnson of a Lagos High Court.

The High Court of Justice, Queens Bench in London, had on August 1, 2012, ordered Akingbola to pay Access Bank £654 million for some alleged fraudulent practices committed when he was in charge of the defunct bank.

Access Bank acquired Intercontinental Bank on January 31, 2012 and in bid to enforce the London Court judgement in Nigeria, Access Bank had approached Justice A. A. Oyebanji of a Lagos High Court with an exparte application.

The bank, in the ex-parte application, had sought to register the London court’s judgement and the accompanying order of Justice Michael Burton, dated September 13, 2012.

Justice Oyebanji had acceded to the bank’s request and ordered Akingbola to pay the judgement sum.

However, Akingbola, through his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), filed an application dated September 27, 2013, asking Justice Candide-Johnson to quash the registration of the foreign judgement for lack of jurisdiction.

Justice Candide-Johnson had discharged the exparte order on the grounds that Access Bank’s move contravened provisions of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgement Act of 1958.

He also declared that the Lagos High Court lacked jurisdiction to register the judgement on the grounds that the subject matter of the judgement, which was an alleged unlawful share purchase orchestrated by the bank and Akingbola’s breach of statutory duties as director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, were matters relating to the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), which the British judge admitted he relied totally on, but which only Nigerian courts and specifically the Federal High Court could properly exercise jurisdiction.

Justice Candide-Johnson had further held that since the Federal High Court alone had exclusive jurisdiction on CAMA-related cases, his court could not have entertained the claims leading up to the judgement.

He said therefore, his court could not register the judgement as that would make it a verdict of the court.

The judge, however, refused Akingbola’s prayer seeking to restrain Access Bank from enforcing the London judgement in any other court.

“Instead of granting such an order, the proper order to make in this case is to strike out the entire suit and same is hereby struck out,” Justice Candide- Johnson had ruled.

Olanipekun had, while arguing the case on behalf of Akingbola, stressed that Access Bank failed to comply with condition precedent before the registration could be completed.

He submitted that Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution vested the jurisdiction on the Federal High Court and not on a state high court.

Responding, counsel to Access Bank, Olaniwun Ajayi (SAN), in a counteraffidavit dated October 10, 2013, submitted that the proposition that only the Federal High Court had jurisdiction to register foreign judgements should be discountenanced.

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