Lagos, Feb. 6, 2023
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nneka Chinwe Onyeali-Ikpe was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment over disobedience of a garnishee order of court restraining the bank from allowing a judgement debtor access to his account.
This verdict was delivered by a Chief Magistrate Court Magistrate Lateef Owolabi at Ogba Magustrate Court in Lagos on Monday.
Sentenced alongside the bank boss was the bank secretary, Ezinwa Unuigboje.
He gave the sentence sequel to a garnishee order he gave on December 6, 2022 asking 16 banks not to allow a judgement debtor, Prince Enabulele Ozaze access to his bank accounts pending the payment of N2.8 million judgement debt in suit involving the sale of a Toyota Corolla car.
In the main suit, Magistrate Owolabi had given judgement on October 13, 2022 in favour of the plaintiff, Jibrin Ahmed who sued the defendant over the payment of N2.8 million he made to the defendant for the purchase of a Toyota Corolla car.
Magistrate Owolabi in the judgement said that the claim before the court is summons used in action for debt or liquidated money demand with or without interest.
According to him, liquidated demand is one ascertainable as a matter of arithmetic precision without further investigation.
Magistrate Owolabi said, “I have examined the whole process filed by the claimant and hold that the claimant is entitled to judgement not necessarily because the defendant is absent, but because the claimant has made a case worthy of being entitled to judgement. The totalities of evidence presented are relevant and reliable.”
The magistrate thereafter entered judgement against the defendant in the sum of N2.8 million which is due to the claimant over the transaction that took place in July 2022.
The claimant’s lawyer, Alayo Akanbi filed a garnishe proceeding before the court and attached 17 banks, and asked the court to stop the banks from allowing the defendant to draw money from his accounts with them pending the liquidation of the debt. The garnishe order was granted on December 6, 2022.
However, on January 25, 2023, the claimant, now judgement creditor deposed to an affidavit before the court where he showed that the garnishe order have been flouted by Fidelity bank.
He showed instances of how the judgement debtor had been withdrawing funds from his account to the extent that he had depleted the funds in his account with Fidelity bank.
He claimed that the judgement debtor has N3,165,759.05k in his account with Fidelity bank as at January 12, 2023 when the garnishe order was served on the bank.
By January 15, three days after service, the judgement debtor had withdrawn N725,547.80k from the account. The following day, January 16, 2023, another N251,305.90 was transferred out of the bank.
On January 17, the legal officer of the bank Obianuju Nwosu confirmed service on the bank as at December 22, 2022 and further apologised for the transactions on the account.
January 18, 2023, the court ordered that the Managing Director, and Company Secretary to appear in person before the court to explain why they should not be committed to prison for allowing the judgement debtor to dissipate the funds in his account after the service of the garnishe order nisi.
At the proceeding, the Managing Director and Company were not in court as ordered. Lawyer to the judgement creditor told the court how the two had disobeyed the garnishe order of the court.
Magistrate Owolabi in his ruling sentenced the Managing Director and Company Secretary to six weeks imprisonment each.
He further ordered Lagos State Commissioner of Police and any officer under his command to arrest the bank staff, bring them to court for onward transfer to the appropriate correctional centre.