Customs to challenge N2bn Innoson judgement debt

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The Supreme Court has granted the application of the Nigeria Customs Service Board to challenge the February 6, 2014 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Ibadan that affirmed a N2, 048,737,443.57 judgment debt in favour of Innoson Nigeria Limited.

In the appeal marked SC.816/2020, the sum of N700, 220,000 was awarded against the Customs and the Attorney General of the Federation in favour of Innoson, with interest at the rate of 22 per cent per annum from the date of commencement of the action and 22 per cent per annum until the final liquidation of the judgment debt.

The Customs paid Innoson N700, 220,000, out of the judgment sum, which at the time stood at N1, 881,219,981.17, leaving an outstanding of N1, 625, 119, 514, 97.

Following an application by Innoson, the Federal High Court, Ibadan, on July 29, 2011, made a garnishee order against three banks in the sum of N2, 048,737,443.57.

One of the banks appealed the decision of the garnishee proceedings in the Court of Appeal, Ibadan.

However, the Customs claimed that the bank withdrew its appeal against it and the AGF, whereupon their names were struck out of the appeal, and subsequently, no processes were served on Customs by reason of the withdrawal but the Court of Appeal affirmed the garnishee absolute of the trial court and ordered that the sum of N2, 048,737,443.67 be released from the Customs’ account in satisfaction of the judgment debt.

But the Customs averred that Innoson failed to inform the Court of Appeal that consequent upon negotiations between it, the firm and the AGF, Customs remitted N700, 220,000.00 into the firm’s account with Mainstreet Bank on November 28, 2011, before the Court of Appeal affirmed the order of the trial court.

It said Innoson on March 27, 2019, caused to be issued out of the Federal High Court, Awka Division, a Writ FiFa, for the full sum of N2, 048,737,443.67 and interest at the rate of 22 per cent per annum from July 29, 2011, till date.

The Customs thereafter approached the Supreme Court with an application to be joined in the suit filed before the court.

A five-man panel of the court, in a unanimous ruling, upheld the prayers of Customs in a motion on notice filed on November 9, 2020.

The panel which comprised of Justices Olukayode Ariwoola, John Inyang Okoro, Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, Abdu Aboki and Tijani Abubakar agreed that the Customs argument was meritorious.

The ruling read in part, “Having granted the application, therefore, the following orders are hereby made, leave is hereby granted to the applicant to appeal as an interested party against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division in appeal number CA/1/258/2011.

“Time is extended to the applicant to seek for leave to appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal on grounds of mixed law and facts.”

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