Alleged Debt: Court dismisses Union Bank's suit against Petrocam

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

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

The judge gave the judgment on May 24, 2019 in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/383/2018.

Petrocam Trading Nig Ltd, Mr Patrick Ilo and Petrocam Trading (PTY) Ltd 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, 2018 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 Piaintiff/Respondent on the same subject matter before the Lagos State High Court in Suit No: LD/3511CMW/18.

"That the PIaintiff/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 fike 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 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 No. LD/3511/CMW/18 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, 2018 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 an abuse of court process.
While 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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