By Paul Sanusi, Lagos
A Lagos Federal High Court, has dismissed a suit filed by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) against Capital Oil and Gas Limited and its owner, Mr. Patrick Ifeanyi Uba.
The court presided over by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke in his judgment on the debt recovery suit, held that NDIC failed to lead evidence on how it arrived at the debt balance of the alleged facilities.
NDIC in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/422/10 dated April 1, 2010, and filed by its lawyer, Anozie Douglas Benson alleged that the Capital Oil & Gas Limited applied for and was granted financial facilities by All States Trust Bank Plc (in-Liquidation) in respective sums of N71, 740,000.00 and N264, 264, 000. 00.
The plaintiff further averred that the said facilities were accepted and fully utilized by first defendant (Capital Oil). Adding The that the facilities granted to the first defendant were personally guaranteed by the second defendant (Ifeanyi Uba).
But, the defendants in their statement of defence filed by their lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN denied the indebtedness.
Uba through his lawyer stated that the bank’s offer letters dated June 7, 2004 and August 3, 2004 were never disbursed by the plaintiff and that the defendants never drew down or utilized the facilities.
During trial, Dr. Nwobike SAN had argued that the bank indulged in irregular, inconsistent and multiple debt entries on the first defendant’s account which later resulted in the defendants lodging series of complaints on the irregularities.
Nwobike (SAN) further argued that it was after persistent demands and based on the mandate of the external auditors that the statement of accounts dated February 28, 2005 and July 6, 2007 were released which showed that the plaintiff has engaged in multiple, unwarranted, inconsistent and unjustified entries.
In his judgement, Justice Aneke observed that during trial, the plaintiff abandoned the offer letter for N71, 740,000.00 which was the outstanding balance on the first defendant’s statement of account with the All State Trust Bank Plc less N10.4 million paid by both defendants while the bank was in liquidation.
Besides, Justice Aneke also held that during trial the plaintiff also abandoned the Offer Letter for N71, 740,000.00 and concentrated on the offer Letter and Acceptance for the sum of N264, 264,000.
Consequently, the court held that the only issue for determination is whether the plaintiff has been able to prove that the defendants are indebted to it in the sum of N177, 626, 754.00.
The court stated that the plaintiff’s lone witness (PW1) apart from tendering exhibit P7 (statement of account) did not give any explanation on how the debt balance contained in the bank statement was arrived at.
Justice Aneke held that ‘’the plaintiff simply tendered Exhibit P7 and left it to the court to deduce how it came about the debt balance in the writ of summons and statement of claim’’.
‘’The statement of account was prepared by the All States Trust Bank Plc without any impute by the 1st and 2nd defendants. The least the plaintiff would have done is to lead credible evidence explaining how it came about the debt balance in its own document’’.
The court held that all onus of proof in on the plaintiff to prove the defendants indebtedness to it.
Justice Aneke further held that ‘’entries in books of accounts or electronics records regularly kept in the course of business are admissible whenever they refer to a matter into which the court has to inquire but such statement shall not alone be sufficient evidence to charge a person with liability’’.
Consequently, the court dismissed the suit and awarded cost of N20,000 in favour of the Capital Oil and Gas, and Mr. Patrick Ireañyi