The Court of Appeal in Abuja has ordered the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) to pay N540 million in damages over the defamation of Prophet Emmanuel Omale and his wife, Deborah, into an interest-yielding bank account of the Chief Registrar of the court.
The three-man panel of the appellate court in its unanimous ruling read by a Justice of the Court of Appeal (JCA), Justice Muhammed Shuaibu, further directed FCMB to deposit the said N540 million in the Court Registrar’s account within 48 hours.
The Court of Appeal gave the order on Thursday, February 1, 2024, while the Certified True Copy of its Enrolled Order dated February 2, 2024, was obtained on Sunday, February 4, 2024.
The appellate court gave the directive while granting a conditional stay of execution on the payment of the said N540 million in damages, pending the determination of the FCMB’s appeal in the matter.
The FCMB had appealed against the judgement of Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja, asking the Court of Appeal to set aside the verdict of the lower court on the payment of N540 million in damages.
The FCMB is further asking the appellate court to stay the execution of the lower court’s judgment and restrain the Omales from taking steps to enforce the judgment in their favour.
Having listened to the arguments of the parties, the Court of Appeal directed in its enrolled order as follows:
“The application is granted as prayed in terms of the 1st prayer in the Appellant's motion filed on 3/11/2022.
“Consequently, conditional stay of execution of the judgment is hereby granted to the Appellant. The condition being that the judgment sum shall be deposited into an interest yielding bank account of the Court to be opened by the Chief Registrar of this Court within 48 hours of the grant of this Order.
“Appeal is adjourned to a date to be communicated to Counsel by the Registry.”
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the FCT High Court, the FCMB through his lead lawyer, Dr Wale Olawoyin (SAN), filed a Notice of Appeal dated October 5, 2022 against the final judgment.
In the Notice of Appeal, the FCMB raised constitutional and other weighty legal issues, saying that it would be highly prejudiced by any step(s) to execute or enforce the final judgment as the action would render nugatory its appeal before the appellate court.
According to the FCMB, “there is a real and high risk that it would suffer irreparable damage in the event that its application is refused and the appeal is successful”.
Opposing the FCMB’s motion for a stay of execution of the lower court’s judgment, the Omales, through their lawyers, Chief Goddy Uche (SAN) and Kanayo Okafor, argued that the bank’s application was brought in utmost bad faith to merely frustrate and delay without any justification, the enjoyment of the fruits of the judgment in their favours.
The Omales argued: “That the judgment Appellant/Applicant's appeal has little or no chance of success in the light of the admissions and apologies and tacit acceptance of its negligence in this matter.
“That in the alternative, we concede to a conditional stay of execution, for the Appellant/Applicant to deposit the judgment sum within 48 hours into an interest-yielding bank account to be opened by the Chief Registrar of this Honourable Court, in any other commercial bank, except the judgment/debtor.”