Innoson suffers setback as Supreme Court reverses self over N2.4b GTBank debt

Anthony Iwuoma

Nigeria’s apex court has reversed its earlier ruling in an appeal filed by Guaranty Trust Bank against a N2.4 billion judgment given by the Court of Appeal, in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, in favour of indigenous auto manufacturing giant Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited.

In a unanimous judgment delivered by a five-member panel led by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the Supreme Court admitted that it erroneously dismissed the appeal marked: SC/694/2014 filed by GTB on February 27, 2019.

The lead judgment was written by Justice Tijani Abubakar but read by Justice Abdu Aboki.

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The apex court said it was misled by the failure of its registry to promptly notify the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019 that GTB had already filed its appellant’s brief of argument.

GTB had sought the re-listing of the appeal on the grounds that it was wrongly dismissed.

However, the Supreme Court held that if the appellant’s brief of argument  was brought to the notice of the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, it would not have dismissed GTB’s appeal on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.

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Therefore, relying on Order 8 Rules 16 of the Supreme Court’s rules, Justice Abubakar, in the lead judgment, held that like any other court, the Supreme Court could reverse its earlier decision in certain circumstances.

He also noted that such circumstances include where there is any reason to do so, such as where any of the parties obtained judgment by fraud, default  or deceit; where such a decision is a nullity or where it is obvious that the court was misled into giving a decision.

Justice Abubakar held that the the GTB case fell into the category of the rare cases where the Supreme Court could amend or alter its own order on the grounds that the said order or judgment did not present what it intended to record.

“I am convinced that at the material time that the appellant’s appeal was inadvertently dismissed by this court, there was in place, a valid and subsisting brief of argument filed by the applicant,” he held.

“It will be unjust to visit the sin of the court’s Registry on an innocent, vigilant, proactive and diligent litigant.

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“It is obvious from the material before us, that there were errors committed by the Registry of this court, having failed to bring to the notice of the panel of Justices that sat in chambers on February 27, 2019 that the appellant had indeed filed its brief of argument.

“This is a case deserving of positive consideration by this court. Having gone through all the materials in this application therefore, I am satisfied that the appellant/applicant’s brief of argument was filed before the order of this court made on February27, 2019 dismissing the applicant’s appeal.

“The order dismissing the appeal was therefore made in error. It ought not to have been made if all materials were disclosed. The application is therefore, meritorious and hereby succeeds.”

The justice consequently set aside the court’s ruling of February 27, 2019 dismissing GTB’s appeal and ordered that the appeal marked:  694/2014 “be relisted to constitute an integral part of the business of this court until its hearing and determination on the merit.”

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