In Lagos Court reportedly strikes out Honeywell’s contempt case against Ecobank

Justice Mohammed Idris said the documents for the contempt proceedings were not properly served.

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The Federal High Court in Lagos reportedly struck out a contempt charge filed against Ecobank Nigeria Limited by Honeywell Flour Mills Plc.

Justice Mohammed Idris said the documents for the contempt proceedings were not properly served.

The Honeywell Group, filed a charge urging the court to jail the Ecobank MD for allegedly violating an August 10, 2015 court order, which barred Ecobank from publishing the name of Honeywell Group among chronic debtors.

Honeywell’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), alleged that Ecobank, through its lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), had taken steps contrary to the court’s order by filing other suits in a bid to recover the alleged debt from Honeywell.

Presiding Judge, Justice Idris, in his ruling, said “a party seeking to jail another for disobeying a court order was duty bound to ensure that processes in contempt proceedings were duly served.”

He said  “What I can see from a close examination of form 48 is that the form is stamped; the wordings are however illegible. I can see that the stamp has the date of 19th November 2015. The same applies to Form 49.

“A valid proof of service of the same forms must have endorsed therein the following, as stated by the Court of Appeal: (1) particulars of the person serving; (2) date of service; (3) time and place of service and (4) the person that accepted the service.”

“I’m afraid that it appears that the Form 48 and 49 were not properly endorsed with the particulars of service. In effect, there is no reliable or authentic information before the court as to the service of the Form 48 and 49 on the defendants herein.

“This issue goes to the issue of the jurisdiction of the court. This court must act with caution. I decline jurisdiction. I hold that the jurisdiction of this court has not been properly invoked in respect of the contempt proceedings and same is hereby struck out,”  the Judge said.

He further warned parties against taking any action that could incur the court’s wrath, saying “Let me warn that orders of court are binding and enforceable until set aside by an order of court of competent jurisdiction. The order of this court that the parties maintain status quo ante bellum remains valid and binding on all the parties until set aside.

“Whenever the disciplinary jurisdiction of this court is properly invoked, this court will descend heavily without any fear on whichever party is found guilty of contempt of this court. This court barks and it bites.”

The Judge then adjourned till February 26 for hearing of Ecobank’s motion for stay of proceedings.

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