Mother of All Suits: Why Innoson Hit GTBank with 400 Billion Naira Suit

Mother of All Suits: Why Innoson Hit GTBank with 400 Billion Naira Suit

By Efe Oghenekaro

Why is someone’s name or reputation so important? Here are some of the points made by some of the greatest authorities in the world on this issue:

“A good name is to be desired more than gold; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold,” says the Bible.

According to Publilius Syrus, “a good reputation is more valuable than money.”

Socrates advises as follows: “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of.”

In the words of William Shakespeare:

Good name in man and woman …
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” stresses Warren Buffett, the investment guru.

When news broke some days ago that manufacturing giant, Innoson Nigeria Limited, and its Chief Executive Officer, Dr Innocent Chukwuma, filed a fresh suit of N400 billion against Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, some people wondered why the company and its CEO would slam GTBank with such a huge suit.

But upon close examination, it was obvious that Innoson and its CEO were not suing for the fun of it. They sued Guaranty Trust Bank PLC in the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja claiming a total sum of 400 billion naira damages for injury to their reputation, moral character, credibility, office, vocation and trade. They are also seeking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining GT Bank from further defaming them.

Innoson and Chief Chukwuma understand that a good name is priceless, and once stained it could destroy all a person or company has laboured for over the years. Chukwuma holds the national honour of Officer of the Republic (OFR). He is the Chancellor of Imo State University. He also holds the record of being Nigeria’s first indigenous vehicle manufacturer. Both the Innoson brand name and the name of Chief Chukwuma have been built into reputable names. Once smeared, they will lose the trust of the public and also the patronage of the public, which may lead to the death of the business and any future endeavour embarked upon by Chukwuma.

The lawsuit which was filed by Innocent Chukwuma’s counsel, Prof Joseph N Mbadugha Esq, is sequel to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in favour of Innoson Nigeria Ltd. in Appeal No: SC/694/2014 between GTB v. Innoson Nig Ltd. There, on 12th May 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed GTBank’s Application.

It must be noted that Innoson Nigeria Ltd had won various lawsuits against GTBank. On 29th July 2011, the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division, through a garnishee order absolute ordered the Defendants (GTBank) to pay the sum of N2,048,737,443.6K (Two Billion, Forty Eight Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty Seven Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Three Naira, Sixty Seven Kobo) to Innoson Nigeria Ltd.

GTBank however appealed against the judgment to the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division. In a unanimous judgment, delivered on 6th February 2014, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, affirmed the judgment of the trial Court and ordered the Defendant (GTBank) to pay the said sum of N2, 048,737,443.6K (Two Billion, Forty Eight Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty Seven Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Three Naira, Sixty Seven Kobo) to Innoson Nigeria Ltd.

Still aggrieved, the Defendant (GTBank) appealed to the Supreme Court on 11 Grounds. Subsequently, GTBank sought to amend its notice of appeal – to adduce Fresh Evidence – to show that Innoson Nigeria Ltd obtained the judgment of the Court of Appeal by fraud and fraudulent suppression of material facts.

GTBank had through its motion on notice in Appeal No: SC/694/2014 dated the 22nd of January 2016 and filed at the Supreme Court on the 5th of February 2016, with a 15 paragraph affidavit in support averred that Innoson Nigeria Ltd obtained the Court of Appeal Judgment against GTBank in Appeal No CA/I/258/2011 by fraud.

Similarly, at paragraphs 9 and 10 of the affidavit in support of the said motion on notice deposed to by Sarah Ugamah on behalf of GTBank, GTBank said that Innoson Nigeria Ltd fraudulently suppressed that it was paid the sum of N1, 406,515,845.98 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Six Million, Five Hundred and Fifteen Thousand, Eight Hundred and Forty-Five naira, Ninety-Eight Kobo) in liquidation of the judgment debt.

However in a unanimous decision, on 12th May 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed the GTBank’s said motion on notice; and while dismissing the motion, Supreme Court stated, inter alia, that GT Bank engaged in double speaking and in a frivolous frolic in bringing the application.

In this fresh suit, Innoson Nigeria Ltd and Chief Innocent Chukwuma maintained that the words published by GTBank – that it obtained the Court of Appeal Judgment by fraud and fraudulent suppression of the fact that Innoson Nig. Ltd. was paid the sum N1,406,515,845.98 in final liquidation of the judgment debt – implies that Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Nigeria Ltd are dubious, dishonest, dishonorable, and untrustworthy, of questionable character, fraudster, criminally deceptive, cheats and obtaining money through false pretenses.

In consequence, Innoson Nigeria Ltd and Innocent Chukwuma are claiming against the GTBank PLC as follows: N100 Billion exemplary damages; N100 Billion for injury to feelings – mental pains and anxiety; N150 Billion for injury to reputation and N50 Billion general damages.

Innoson Nig Ltd. and Chief Innocent Chukwuma further claim:

  • AN ORDER that the published words complained of be retracted by the Defendant – GTBank with an apology published in two National dailies;
  • AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the GTBank from further maligning or otherwise defaming them in the words or similar words, complained of in this motion;
  • AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining GTBank, its agents, privies or whomsoever from further defaming the plaintiffs;
  • 22% interest on the said sums of money claimed above commencing on 22nd January 2016 till the date of the judgment and thereafter at the same rate of 22% interest until the satisfaction of the judgment debt.

With Guaranty Trust Bank having a shareholders’ funds base of N546.9 billion, having a N400 billion naira suit hanging on its neck is not a joke. Even though it is left to the court to decide if GTBank is guilty or not and how much it should pay if found guilty, such a case is not in the best interest of a financial institution like the GTBank that is the custodian of people’s money.

The legal battle between Innoson and GTBank has raged on for some years now. Innoson has had the upper hand so far. Nobody knows how this new case will pan out. But it is obvious that it is not the best of times for GTBank and it will not find this new suit funny.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *