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Capital Oil drags Access Bank to Court over contempt

By on February 3, 2013

Capital Oil and Gas Limited and its Chief Executive Officer, Ifeanyi Ubah, have begun to initiate contempt proceedings against Access Bank Plc and some of its principal officers.

It follows the banks alleged refusal to comply with the order of a Federal High Court in Lagos directing it to discontinue a suit it filed against Ubah and others in a London court.

Justice Okon Abang had on January 28 berated the bank for filing the suit in a London court while the suit was before him in Nigeria and subsequently ordered the bank to withdraw the suit.

But rather than discontinue with the suit, Ubah alleged that the bank returned to the foreign court on January 31 and got a fresh order directing Ubah and his company to, among others, take steps to vacate all orders made by the Nigerian court.

As a result, Ubah and his firm have filed and served Form 48 to the bank. This is a “notice of consequences of disobedience to court order,” which warns a party against who an order is made, to obey, failing which it would be cited for contempt.

Form 48 is usually followed by Form 49 -a formal application for committal of the person (s) who refuses to obey the court order or ruling.

Ubah and his company said their step was informed by the alleged failure of Access Bank to withdraw the suit: Claim No. 2012 Folio 1300, which it filed at the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench division, Commercial Court, London, in relation to the dispute between them over a purported loan.

While ordering them to discontinue the London suit within 48 hours, Justice Abang also ordered them to exhibit a notice of discontinuance at the next hearing date, which is Monday February 4.

The judge, in that ruling, faulted the bank’s decision to secure an order from the London court despite a subsisting order of his court barring Access Bank and others from interfering with the property and business interests of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, pending the determination of a suit by Ubah and his company.

The judge upheld the argument by made by Ubah’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, that by heading for London over a dispute in relation to a transaction that took place in Nigeria, the bank has “ridiculed the Nigerian judiciary.”

Justice Abang further restrained the bank from enforcing the order made by the London court against the assets and business interests of Capital Oil.

The judge held that Ubah and his company were at liberty to apply to his court for leave to commence contempt proceedings against the bank and its principal officers, should they fail in complying with the order.

He further held that Ubah and his company could sue for damages if they so wish.

The ruling was on an application by Ubah and his company, challenging the propriety of a worldwide assets freezing order obtained by Access Bank from the London court on November 9 last year, in relation to issues that formed the subject of the pending suit before the Nigerian court.