COURTROOM NEWS 04/02/2024
Appeal Court Orders FCMB to Pay N540m Damages
Court of Appeal, Abuja has ordered the First City Monument Bank (FCMB), to pay the sum of N540 million damages for alleged defamation of Prophet Emmanuel Omale and his wife, Deborah.
Justice Yusuf Halilu of a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court had, in a judgement on October 4, 2022, awarded the sum against FCMB.
Justice Halilu held that the bank recklessly breached the duty of care it owe to Omale of the Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry, his wife and the church.
The judge agreed that the bank made a false claim that former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu paid N573 million to the church’s account.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on February 1, rejected FCMB’s request for a stay of execution of the judgement, pending the determination of its appeal, as prayed in a motion on notice it filed.
Instead, a three-member panel presided over by Justice Muhammed Shuaibu, granted a conditional stay of the execution of the judgement by ordering the bank to pay the judgement sum of N540 million into an interest yielding account in the name of the court’s chief registrar.
In an enrolled copy of the ruling sighted on Sunday, the appellate court said: “The application is granted as prayed in terms of the first prayer in the appellant’s motion filed on March 3, 2022.
“Consequently, conditional stay of execution of the judgment is hereby granted to the appellant.”
According to the appellate court, the condition being that the judgement sum shall be deposited into an interest yielding bank account of the court to be opened by the chief registrar of this court within 48 hours of the grant of this order.
The panel then adjourned further hearing till a date to be communicated to parties by the court’s registry.
The conditional stay granted by the Court of Appeal was alternatively conceded by the respondents; Omale, his wife and the church, in their counter affidavit to the appellant’s motion, which they had actually sought to be dismissed.
The October 4 judgement by Justice Halilu was on a defamation suit marked: FCT/HC/CV2541/2020 filed by Omale, his wife and the church against the bank.
During the investigation of Magu by the Justice Isa Salami-led presidential investigation panel, it was reported that an investigation by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) revealed that the ex-EFCC chairman paid N573 million into Omale’s church’s account with which a property was allegedly bought in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Justice Halilu, in the judgement noted that evidence before his court showed that the bank admitted error in its report, to the NFIU, of entries in Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry’s account.
The judge further noted that the bank claimed that the purported N573 million was wrongly reflected as credit entry in Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry’s account by its reporting system, which it recently upgraded.
The judge noted that the bank admitted the error, which occasioned incalculable damage to the reputation of the claimants both within and outside the country.
He held that the claimants provided sufficient evidence to establish case of negligence against the bank.
Justice Halilu proceeded to award N200 million as aggravated damages; N140,500,000 as specific damages and N200 million as general damages.