Justice Jude Dagat of the Federal High Court in Lagos monday struck out the application filed by Ecobank Nigeria Plc seeking to wind-up Honeywell and its sister company, Anchorage Leisures Limited, for abuse of court process.
Pending applications before the court include FHC/L/CS/1571/15 Ecobank v. Honeywell Group Limited and FHC/L/CS/1570/15 Ecobank v Anchorage Leisures Limited, which were the petitions for winding–up filed by Ecobank against Honeywell and Anchorage Leisures on October 16, 2015.
Ruling yesterday, Justice Dagat noted that a court faced with winding up application must first determine if the petition was brought in good faith. According to him, Ecobank knew that Honeywell was challenging the alleged debt and had instituted a matter before Justice Mohammed Idris of the same court, who had ruled that parties maintain status quo ante bellum.
Despite the orders, the court said Ecobank started its forum shopping by filing winding-up petitions instead of recovery of the alleged debt.
Honeywell said it had made payments to the tune of N3.5 billion as full and final payment pursuant to the agreement of July 22, 2014 by the parties.
Justice Dagat stated that since the matter pending before Justice Idris is premised on the same facts as the petition, there was an established abuse of the orders of Justice Idris regarding maintenance of status quo ante bellum. Justice Dagat further held that the matter before Justice Idris is first in time, therefore the subsequent petition by Ecobank constitutes an abuse of court process.
The court held that Ecobank’s petition was aimed at overreaching the powers of the Federal High Court in the suit before Justice Idris.
He said: “The Supreme Court has made it clear that it would amount to a travesty of justice for any court to hear a matter that is already before another court of coordinate jurisdiction.’’
Justice Dagat further ruled that if the court should proceed with Ecobank’s petition, it would create a conflict of decisions by different courts, which will not augur well within the Judiciary. “It is not in the interest of justice to allow this petition to stand even as the jurisdiction of the court has not been invoked on the matter”, he said and subsequently struck out the petition while upholding Honeywell’s challenge of the petition.