Appeal Court Throws Out Heritage Bank’s N200m Claim For ‘Bereft’ Of Merit

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division has dismissed an appeal filed by Heritage Bank Plc challenging the judgement of a Lagos Federal High Court, which held that the Bank never gave N200 million facility to one of it’s customers, as it claimed.

Justice Muslim Sule Hassan (now Justice of Court of Appeal) had in his judgement in suit number FHC/L/CS/1217/2009, filed by Frontel Nigeria Limited and Alhaji Samsudeen Owonifari against Heritage Bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) held that Heritage Bank did not grant the facility and neither was the money collected.

Justice Hassan also ordered the Heritage Bank to reinstate the first respondent’s account with credit balance of N15, 035, 244. 25 million, and pay 21 percent interest per annum on the said sum from July 15, 2008, till final liquidation.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, Heritage Bank in it Notice of Appeal marked CA/L/73/2019, urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court.

But, in his lead Judgement, Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya, held that the Appeal is bereft of any morsel of merit and deserves the reserved penalty of dismissal.

The court held that the lower court’s assessment of documents presented was an immaculate one and all the diatribes rained against it by Heritage Bank were of no significance. 

“I have, in order to pacify the law. given a global/universal examination to the first respondent’s pleading. I am unable to find, even with the prying eagle-eye of an appellate court, where it made a wholesale admission of the indebtedness. 

“Perhaps, that informed the appellant to hing its complaint on the documents — exhibits D5 and D6, especially the latter. I have given a microscopic examination to both. They do not harbour any ambiguity. Exhibit D5, dated 16th February, 2009, ‘was a written correspondence from the appellant to the first respondent.

“Notwithstanding that the title of the document talks of indebtedness, the body of it made no “reference, even in infinitesimal measure, to the grant of credit facility. Nor does it disclose that the indebtedness relates to an amount germinating from the controversial credit facility. lt only made casual allusion to the meeting of 12th February, 2009.
“The sum mentioned is not N200m, the subject of the loan. It is very curious that the document failed to link the alleged indebtedness as a progeny of the credit facility. The lacuna is a costly one. The reason is simple. The document does not, in the least, embrace the credit facility in order to apportion) liability to the alleged debt on the first respondent. The glaring absence of direct nexus/correlation between the document and the credit liability constitutes a serious coup de grace to the appellant’s heavy reliance on it and, ipso facto, makes mincemeat of the its dazzling argument in support of it.

“Flowing from this expansive tour d’ horizon on evaluation of evidence, done in due allegiance to the law, the lower court’s ultimate finding is an immaculate one. It did not transgress the law to render its faultless finding guilty of the ‘accusation of perfunctory evaluation of evidence hurled against it by the appellant. 

“In fact, the allegation is a pseudo-one as well as uncharitable and unsustainable. In this wise, I with due deference, dishonour the learned appellant’s counsel’s salivating invitation to sacrifice the finding, on the proof of the main claim, on the underserved altar of improper evidential evaluation. In the end, I have no option than to resolve the conflated issues one, two, three, four, five and six against the appellant and in favour ‘of the respondents. 

“On the ‘whole, having resolved the six issues against the appellant (Heritage bank), the destiny of the appeal is obvious. It is bereft of any morsel of merit and deserves the reserved penalty of dismissal. 

“Consequently, I dismiss the appeal. I affirm the judgment of the lower court. The parties shall bear the respective costs they incurred in the prosecution and defence of the ill-fated appeal.”