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Alleged debt: Court dismisses bank’s suit against Petrocam
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Alleged debt: Court dismisses bank’s suit against Petrocam

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has dismissed a suit filed by Union Bank Limited seeking the recovery of an alleged debt from a multinational firm, Petrocam Trading.

Justice I. N. Oweibo held that the bank’s suit was an abuse of court process.

The judge gave the verdict on May 24.

Petrocam Trading Nigeria Limited, Mr Patrick Ilo and Petrocam Trading (PTY) Limited South Africa were the first to third defendants/applicants while Union Bank was the plaintiff/respondent in the suit.

Justice Oweibo upheld the applicants’/defendants’ application brought by a May 8, last year, Motion on Notice filed through their counsel Gboyega Oyewole (SAN).

The application was premised on seven grounds. They are: “That the defendant/applicant has a subsisting action against the plaintiff/respondent on the same subject matter before the Lagos State High Court.

“That the plaintiff/respondent is aware of the pendency of the above mentioned suit pending before the Lagos State High Court as same has been served on the plaintiff/respondent prior to institution of the instant suit.

“That the action before the State High Court is on the same subject matter and between the same parties as in this suit before this honourable court.

“That the plaintiff/respondent, rather than file a counter-claim in the subsisting and pending suit before the Lagos State High Court, came before this honourable court to file a fresh action on the same subject matter.

“The parties in both matters are the same.

“The court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the action as same is incompetent and amount to an abuse of court process.

“The court has the power to dismiss/strike out (the suit) for being an abuse of court process to avoid conflicting judgments of court of co-ordinate jurisdiction on the same subject matter.”

The judge held: “The plaintiff (Union Bank) knew of the existence of the suit in the High Court of Lagos State, the deposition in Paragraph 5(a)(b) of their counter-affidavit, notwithstanding.

“It is my view that the plaintiff in this case did not exercise its right to file an action bona fide: it was intended to overreach the defendant and that constitutes an abuse.

“On the above, I hold that this suit filed during the pendency of suit …before the Lagos State High Court is abuse of court process. This suit is accordingly dismissed.”

The bank, through its counsel, Chief A. O. Aribisala, filed the substantive suit on March 12, last year, by way of a writ of summons for the recovery of debt it claimed the defendants owed.

But Petrocam Trading countered with an application seeking a dismissal of the suit on the grounds that it was incompetent and constituted an abuse of court process.

Reacting to the application, the plaintiff also objected to the competence of the application of the defendants by way of a preliminary objection.

Justice Oweibo also held that the plaintiff’s preliminary objection failed.

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