In the heavily contested and protracted legal battle between Ecobank Nigeria Plc (“the Bank”) and Covalent Oil & Gas Services Ltd and Felshade International Limited, Paul Usoro & Co. (“PUC“) rose to the occasion and successfully defended the Appeal at the Court of Appeal, Abuja brought by Covalent Oil & Gas Services Ltd and Felshade International Ltd in Appeal No: CA/A/501/2013; Covalent Oil & Gas Services Ltd & Anor v. Ecobank Nigeria Plc & Anor challenging the decision of the High Court of the FCT to set aside enforcement steps and stay further execution of the Interlocutory Judgment of the High Court of Lagos State in Suit No. LD/1425/2009; Covalent Oil & Gas Limited v Felshade International Limited.
This was a dispute that arose and was being ventilated before the Lagos State High Court until the theatre of the controversy moved to the FCT Abuja. PUC was briefed in respect of the matter at the High Court of the FCT when the Chief Bailiff of that Court, with a contingent of armed policemen stormed an Ecobank Branch in Abuja to levy execution and to attach the Bank’s properties pursuant to a Writ of Attachment sequel to orders registering an Interlocutory Judgment of the High Court of Lagos State. It was in those circumstances that the Firm filed the necessary application at the High Court of the FCT urging it to set aside and stay further execution and enforcement of the said Interlocutory Judgment contending that the enforcement action was an abuse of the process of the Court in view of pending suits outside Abuja on the same subject matter. The Firm also brought to the Courts attention the non-disclosure and suppression of information pertaining to those suits by Covalent and Felshade in applying for the execution orders. The High Court of the FCT granted our application to set-aside the enforcement orders and stayed further execution and enforcement of the Lagos State High Court Judgment. Against this background and aggrieved with that decision, Covalent Oil & Gas Services Ltd and Felshade International Ltd lodged the Appeal urging the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision of the FCT High Court and to allow their Appeal.
In response, we filed a Preliminary Objection praying the Court to strike out the Appeal for being academic alongside our Brief of Argument in view of the fact that the same High Court of Lagos State had subsequently delivered its Final Judgment in the Suit and set aside the very Interlocutory Judgment sought to be enforced by the action at the High Court of the FCT. We also contended that Grounds 1 & 2 of the Appellant’s Grounds of Appeal not deriving or flowing howsoever from the Ruling of the Trial Court are incompetent before proceeding to argue on the substantive issues, that the Appellants’ action at the Trial Court that was commenced vide their Ex-parte Registration Motion, is an abuse of the Court’s processes given the pendency of the Lagos Suit in consequence of which, the Suit was vexatious and the Orders of the Lower Court that were made on 15 December 2010 were rightly set aside by it. We re-emphasised that the Lagos State High Court Suit was still pending as at the time of enforcement in Abuja. We also argued that not only was the Lagos State High Court Suit still pending, but the Judgment that was sought to be executed thereby was an Interlocutory Judgment of the Court meaning in effect that until the substantive matters in the Suit were disposed of and the Suit concluded, the Lagos State High Court was seised with the full and inherent jurisdiction to enforce the Interlocutory Judgment.
Based on our exceptional and very persuasive arguments which we methodically and painstakingly presented, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division, empaneled by the Honourable Justices of the Court of Appeal – S.J Adah JCA, B.A Georgewill, JCA and M.L Shuaibu JCA on 05 March 2021, delivered it’s Judgment resolving all the issues in the Appeal in favour of Ecobank Nigeria Plc upholding the Preliminary Objection agreeing in totality that the appeal is academic and unmaintainable, as the Appellants’ reason for instituting the Appeal has been discharged and set aside by the Lagos State High Court in its Final Judgment. Worthy of note is the fact that the Court of Appeal did not stop there. It went ahead to consider and resolve the substantive Appeal in favour of Ecobank holding that the Suit was indeed an abuse of Court Process.
One significant thing about this PUC victory is that it is registered as the 3rd successive substantive victory PUC has obtained for Ecobank in respect of the hydra headed dispute between the same parties having previously secured victory at the Lagos State High Court and at the Court of Appeal Ibadan in sister matters handled by different Counsel. With this victory we have once again illustrated the undeniable fact of PUC’s renowned excellence in legal representation and resolution of legal issues deploying its assortment of brilliant legal Counsel regardless of the location and theatre of the legal dispute.
We move on to the next battle!