By Danlami Nmodu
There are fresh fears that some highly placed officials in government are mounting pressure on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ,NIMASA to move about N6.8billion judgment sum kept in First Bank of Nigeria plc to achieve suspected questionable objectives.
In truth , in a suit between NIMASA vs Hensmor Nigeria Ltd, the Court of Appeal,Lagos recently ruled in favour of NIMASA.But it is the speed with which NIMASA has moved to take control of the judgment sum that has raised fears about the fate of the fund.
Earlier, the court had ruled that “The judgement sum of Six Billion,Eight Hundredd Million Naira Only (N6,800,000,000.00) is to be paid within seven days from today by the Appellantnt/Applicants through the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court to an interest yielding account of this court in First Bank Nigeria Plc,Lagos pending the determination of the appeal against the Order of the Federal High Court made on 2nd July,2012.” The Court of Appeal in Lagos gave this order as NIMASA ors appealed for a stay of execution of the Garnishee Order Absolute made by the Federal High Court Lagos 2/7/12 in the suit FHC/L/CS/909/10 Between Hensmor Nigeria Ltd& Anor vs NIMASA and others.
Newsdiaryonline learnt that the Appeal Court also ruled in favour of NIMASA.But Hensmor through its counsel has filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.What is surprising now is that in spite of the appeal by Hensmor for a stay of execution of the Appeal court’s ruling, pressure is being mounted to move the fund to another account.
Anxiety over the fate of the over N6billion judgment fund mounted after NIMASA’s lawyer fired a letter to the Managing director of First Bank Nigeria Plc, Marina saying “This serves to request (as Counsel ) on behalf of NIMASA that the amount standing to the credit of the account held by the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal in relation to this matter vide an earlier order of the Court of Appeal (specifically account with First Bank Plc,Marina ,Lagos Account no :3065248053 and Sort Code NO 1115184) which sum exceeds NGN6,000,000,000(Six Billion Naira)should be immediately transferred to a fixed deposit account with your bank in the name of Nigeria Maritime Administrative and Safety Agency.”It copied to the Deputy Chief Registrar,Court of Appeal ,Lagos Division and signed by Douglas Atebata Esq for Kenna Partners ,counsel to NIMASA.
It was learnt that in what appears like a frantic attempt to stop anyone from tampering with the judgment sum, Jide Zaid & Co ,counsel to Hensmor has also written a letter to the bank notifying it that Hensmor has already filed a notice of appeal dated14th March 2014 against the Appeal Court Judgment(which favoured NIMASA) at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.Jide Zaid Esq noted in its letter to First Bank that the DCR and the counsel to the appellants have been duly served with the court processes.
Zaid to First Bank “ we wish to remind you at this juncture that the judgment sum was directed to be transferred from FCMB to the DCR’s account at First Bank PLC vide the order of conditional Stay of execution granted by the Court of Appeal dated 19th November 2012 pending he determination of the Appeal.We expect similar principle to apply pursuant to our pending Notice of Appeal and Motion of Stay of Execution .
“In the light of the above, the judgment sum cannot be transferred to the Appellants on the basis of a mere letter from their Counsel without recourse to the Court of Appeal by whose order the money was placed in the DCR’s account at First Bank and before whom our application is currently pending for determination.”
Zaid also noted that “it will interest you to know that when we obtained Garnishee Order absolute against FCMB at the Federal High Court in respect of this same judgment sum on 2nd July 2012,the Garnishee Bank faithfully adhered to the above stated principle of Law by holding tenaciously to the Judgment sum until the final resolution of the Applicant’s pending application for stay of execution of the Garnishee order absolute at theCourt of Appeal on 19th November 2012.
The legal tussle began after Hensmor said its vessel M T Aigbomen had been illegally detained by NIMASA .It also alleged that about 63,000 metric tons of its dual purpose kerosine store was equally stolen.NIMASA however said it detained it because the vessel was not sea worthy.