The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal yesterday reserved judgment in the appeal filed by former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, and challenging revocation of the bank licence by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). After listening to the parties in the matter, the three-member panel led by Justice Mohammed Lawal Garuba reserved its judgment.
Akingbola, through his lawyer Onyebuchi Aniakor, asked the appellate court to set aside the earlier ruling of a Federal High Court in Lagos, which dismissed his suit challenging the sale of Intercontinental Bank to Access Bank Plc. Akingbola wants the appellate court to restrain CBN from withdrawing Intercontinental inter-bank guaranty, pending the determination of the appeal.
Justice Okechuwku Okeke of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had dismissed a suit by Akingbola and a former Executive Director of Intercontinental Bank, Mr. Bayo Dada, challenging the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a business combination signed by their former bank and Access Bank. Dissatisfied with the judgment, Akingbola and Dada appealed and insisted that CBN was wrong to have masterminded the signing of the said MoU without recourse to them as shareholders and former directors of Intercontinental Bank.
Arguing the appeal yesterday, Aniakor urged the appellate court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court. The appellants, in their amended notice of appeal, contended that the lower court erred in law when it adjudged the suit as an abuse of court process merely on an assertion contained in the preliminary objections of the defendants, rather than the verified averments in the petition.
The appellants insisted that Justice Okeke made a fundamental error in concluding that the letter in which Dada was removed was not tendered, adding that the action occasioned substantial prejudice to them. He urged the court to hold that given the provision of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, the governor of CBN or any other body could not have validly directed the appellants to cease to serve as directors of Intercontinental Bank without giving them hearing on the matter.
The appellants urged the court to order the respondents to jointly and severally render account of their dealings in the affairs of the bank. They also urged the court to nullify all steps, decisions taken by the respondents in the affairs of the bank from August 14, 2009 to date. Justice Okeke had held that the suit was an abuse of court process, as there was a similar suit by other interested parties on the same subject matter. The lower court also held that the suit was statute barred, as the suit was challenging an action carried out as far back as August 14, 2009, when Sanusi removed some bank chiefs.