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N17.258b judgment debt: Why court froze INEC’s accounts

N17.258b judgment debt: Why court froze INEC’s accounts
June 09
03:45 2018

Facts emerged yesterday why a Federal High Court in Abuja froze accounts owned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in banks particularly Central Bank, First Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA).

INEC’s accounts in CBN, First Bank and UBA are: 002-01224-42021 and 002-01224-41032 domicile in Central Bank of Nigeria ( including all funds held in both accounts).

Others are: 2022050942 and 2022050904 in First Bank (with balances of N1,578,696,848.84 and N600,270,638.00); and 1005393548 in United Bank for Africa (with balance of N52,000,000.00).

The temporary freezing order was made  by Justice John Tsoho upon an ex-parte motion filed by a Lagos-based firm – Bedding Holding Limited (BHL) – for a ganishee order nisi.

The Federal High Court had on January 28, 2014 gave a judgment against the INEC, its then Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and three others in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/816/2010, filed by BHL.

Other defendants in the suit were Haier Electrical Appliances Corporation Limited, Zinox Technologies Limited and Avante International Limited who were contractors to the INEC, engaged to supply equipment that it deployed for voters’ registration prior to the 2011 elections.

BHL had sued, accusing the INEC, Jega and other defendants of infringing on its exclusive “Patent Rights “No: RP16642 and Copyrights Design No: RD13841 in and over Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes (ECTBB) and Patent Rights No: NG/P/2010/202 – Proof of Address System/Scheme (PASS) – Embedded with the Concept of the Coded Metal Plate.”

The firm claimed that the inventions, which its exclusive patent and copy rights covered, were deployed by INEC and the other defendants “for the production of voters’ register for the 2011 general elections, among other elections, without its prior license, consent and authorisation.”

In a judgment on January 28, 2014, then Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, agreed with BHL’s claims and granted all its declaratory and monetary reliefs against the defendants.

Justice Auta ordered, among others, that BHL “is entitled to 50 per cent of the total contract sum of N34, 517,640,000.00,(which is N17,258,820,000.00) being the minimum reasonable royalty accruable to the plaintiff for the production, procurement, supply, acquisition, importation, purchase, receipt, sale of the Direct Data Capturing Machine, laptops and/or any other equipment ancillary to, or associated with the process and application of the said products for the registration of voters and or the collation/compilation and production of the voters’ register for the 2011 general elections and any other elections by the defendants, without first seeking and obtaining the consent of the plaintiff.”

BHL’s ex-parte motion for ganishee order nisi, granted by Justice Tsoho on May 24, 2018 was in furtherance of the execution of the January 28, 2014 judgment.

Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who saw merit in BHL’s case, led a team of lawyers, including two other Senior Advocates – Assam E. Assam and Karina Tunyan – to argue the ex-parte motion on May 24, 2018.

Olanipekun, while arguing the motion, told the court that BHL had, since January 28, 2014 when the judgment was given, notified the judgment debtors and written the AGF on the issue.

He said parties to the judgment had held several meetings on the judgment, but which have remained inconclusive, a development that informed the motion aimed at executing the judgment.

BHL, in a supporting affidavit, said mediation meetings held on two occasions, by parties to the judgment, under the chairmanship of the Solicitor General of the Federation/Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, “could not be concluded because the 1st judgment debtor (INEC) failed, refused and/ or neglected to attend subsequent meetings.”

Although BHL”s motion for garnishee order nisi had all the six judgment debtors listed, it chose to proceed against only INEC and the AGF. It discontinued against Jega, Haier, Zinox and Avante.

Justice Tsoho has adjourned to July 2 this year for the garnishee ( the 23 banks listed in the application) to show cause why the garnishee order nisi should not be made absolute (why the temporary freezing order should not be made permanent, compelling the banks to pay to the judgment creditor -BHL- the judgment sum).

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