AMCON’s Managing Director, Mustafa Chike-Obi
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, yesterday cautioned judges of the court to be careful while dealing with cases that are commenced through motion ex-parte.
Justice Auta, who handed down the warning in Lagos at a workshop organised for judges of the court by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), noted that judges must be careful while handling ex-parte cases to avoid mistake or legal mix up.
The warning, THISDAY gathered, became necessary in view of the allegations that judges tend to gravitate towards applicants who are mainly debtors and who are always the first to rush to court with ex-parte motions each time they know that AMCON is closing in on their assets.
According to Auta, an ex-parte motion should ordinarily be granted expeditiously without the knowledge of opposing parties, but should not be abused.
The CJ said: “If an ex-parte case is assigned to a judge, such a judge is not supposed to give date because when you do that, it will appear on the list, which will automatically cause a lot of confusion.
“What the judge is to tell the registrar to communicate with the lawyer that filed such case, grant or refuse the application and then fixed a date for trial.
“But in a situation where the opposing lawyer is notified, then there is bound to be a lot of confusion, and I want to urge the judges to take note,” Justice Auta advised.
The CJ also launched the 2013 AMCON Practice Directions, which is a special set of rules specifically enacted to guide the operation of AMCON cases before the Federal High Court.
While performing the launching ceremony, Justice Auta commended AMCON for organising a workshop for judges to acquaint them with the workings of the agency, and urged other agencies to follow suit.
The CJ also urged AMCON to decentralise the filing of the cases in court, adding that the Lagos and Abuja divisions of the court were already been overwhelmed with AMCON cases.
He specifically stressed that the cases involving AMCON should also be filed at other divisions of the Federal High Court apart from Lagos and Abuja.
Earlier, AMCON’s Managing Director, Mustafa Chike-Obi had explained that the workshop was organised to rob mind with the judges of the Federal High Court and to introduce them to the new AMCON Practice Directions, which will take effect from March 1, 2013.
Chike-Obi added that the workshop was coming at a critical stage in the history of the nation, and charged the judges to keep on doing the beautiful job they have been doing in the court.
He assured the judges that the workshop would be a yearly affairs where ideas would be given on how to move the nation forward.
Also speaking, the facilitator of the workshop, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), explained that the workshop was organised to acquaint the judges with the workings of AMCON, being an agency of government set up to specifically recover about N5 trillion.
Auta had designated seven judges of the court to handle debt recovery petitions filed by AMCON.
The judges are: Justices Ibrahim Buba, John Tsoho, Mohammed Idris, Okon Abang, Chukwujekwu Aneke, Elvis Chukwu and Ramat Mohammed.
While five of the judges are currently sitting in the Lagos division of the court, two are in Abuja.
It was revealed that the decision to designate the judges might not be unconnected with the difficulties AMCON confronts in the recovery of debts owed the corporation for loans obtained by businessmen and their companies from the banks.
The move to designate the judges, it was further gathered, is aimed at expediting action on the petitions in order to recover the debts.
Recently, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was irked by the delay in concluding suits instituted by banks against their debtors, called for a special court to handle suits relating to debt recovery, breach of contracts, finance and banking in the country.
It is believed that businessmen are currently owing AMCON over N2.5 trillion.
Besides seeking judicial assistance in the recovery of the debts, the CBN has introduced measures that would assist AMCON recover some of the debts.
One of these included the directive by the central bank last year barring banks in the country from extending further credit to 113 companies and 419 directors/shareholders.
The move was as a result of the reluctance by the debtors to pay back their loans despite the purchase of the debts at an agreed price by AMCON.