PUC scores another big one by successfully representing Access Bank Plc at the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/L/887/2017 between Mcdonald Emporium Services Ltd and Access Bank Plc. In the Judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division on 04 March 2021, the Court affirmed the decision of the Lagos State High Court delivered on 27 February 2017 on the basis that the Appellant failed to prove its case and consequently dismissed the Appeal in favour of the Respondent, Access Bank Plc.

The Appellant who was the Claimant at the Lagos State High Court in Suit No: LD/909CMW/2015, had sought declaratory reliefs against Access Bank Plc, that its original deed of assignment dated 13th August 2007 and registered as No. 16 in volume 2180 of the Land’s Registry Office, Lagos in respect of the property located at plot 152 Raymond Iromaka Close by Festac/Amuwo Bridge, Amuwo Odofin Lagos (which the claimant deposited as security for banking facilities granted by the Bank to the Claimant) is in the possession of the Bank. Secondly, that the refusal of the Bank to respond to or confirm to First City Monument Bank (FCMB) that the said document is in its possession to enable FCMB liquidate the Claimant’s debt to the Bank amounted to negligence and breach of fiduciary obligation. The Claimant also sought monetary reliefs of over N400 Million

In its Judgment, the trial Court declared the two statements on oath of the Bank’s witness defective as they were not duly deposed to before a person authorized as required by the requisite laws and same were struck out. However, the Court went on to determine that to sustain a prayer for declaratory reliefs which is at the discretion of the Court, there was no probative value to the standard of evidence presented by the Claimant on the basis that even where the evidence before the Court is unchallenged and uncontradicted, the trial Court has a duty to evaluate it and be satisfied that it is credible and sufficient to sustain the claim and consequently, the reliefs and other reliefs premised upon the declaratory reliefs were accordingly refused.

Having lost at the High Court, the Claimant relying on the fact that the trial Court struck out the statements on oath deposed to by the Bank’s witness, filed an Appeal on six grounds and raised an issue for determination which the Appeal Court adopted to wit; whether given the Respondent’s failure to contradict, deny, controvert or challenge all the evidence/testimony adduced by the Appellant through their witness, CW1, the Court below should have treated the Suit as an undefended Suit which entitled the Appellant to a grant of all its claims against the Bank

In our arguments in favour of the bank, we drew the Court’s attention to the principle of law that declaratory reliefs are not granted on the admission or failure of the defendant to call evidence or defend the Claimant’s claims at the trial. This is because with or without the admission in the Statement of Defence, the duty on the Claimants to prove their entitlement to the declaratory relief on their own pleading and evidence would not have changed. In other words, a declaratory relief is never granted based on admission or default in filling a Defence unless the Claimant calls or adduces evidence in proof of their claims. Secondly, we argued that failure of the bank to file a competent witness statement on oath to contradict the evidence of the sole witness for the claimant, does not mean that the bank did not contradict the evidence of the claimant’s witness as this is the reason for cross examination of a witness as provided by the Evidence Act. We also laid the argument that a witness statement on oath is different from an Affidavit Evidence which requires an opposing party to file a Counter Affidavit to contradict the facts deposed in the Affidavit Evidence. After a further analysis of the evidence adduced by the Claimant, we further argued that the Claimant failed to prove their case and also failed to establish its entitlements to the special damages claimed since same was not specifically pleaded or proved as required by law.

It was on these premise that the Court of Appeal in its erudite Judgment dismissed the Appeal as lacking in merit in favour of Access Bank Plc and upheld the decision of the Lagos State High Court.

With this feat, PUC has once again registered a big win in a long string of consistent and persistent victories affirming once again its reputation and establishing that PUC is indeed a place for growing the brightest legal minds.

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