By Amby Uneze
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), sitting in Owerri, Imo State, has sealed the branch of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, along Bank Road, Owerri for non-compliance with a ruling in a garnishee order against her client, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State (MOUAU) to pay N37 million to Dr. Hilary Uchenna Onyendi, who was an employee/lecturer of the university.
Onyendi got a judgment in the court on July 27, 2015 then sitting in Enugu in a Suit No: NICN/ EN/132 /2013 Hilary Uchenna Onyendi V. Michael Okpara University of Agriculture & the Minister of Education whereby the court ordered that the claimant be reinstated and paid his accumulated salary for several years by then.
The defendants refused to either reinstate the claimant or pay his salary which is more than five years and that prompted his lawyer, Messrs Sam Nwadighoha to approach the court to effect her order.
In March 2020, the claimant in a bid to recover his unpaid salaries, briefed his lawyer who stumbled on an alleged phony account allegedly operated MOUAU, under the name: The Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Nig Ltd with account number 3108588715 domiciled at Umuahia Branch of the bank.
The court, which frowned at the action of the university on the operators of the ‘phony’ account wondered how the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and First Bank Nigeria Plc would permit the registration of such a company which the university bears a similar name with a credit balance of over N2 billion or thereabout.
In February 2020, the claimant in Suit No: NICN/OW/5M/ 2020 commenced a garnishee proceedings against First Bank Nigeria Plc whereby the National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting at Owerri expressed shock that the CAC allowed such a conflicting and phony account in such name to be floated with the aid and connivance of First Bank and thereby granted an Exparte Order Nisi on March 5, 2020 and ordered that the judgment debtors (MOUAU) and the garnishee bank (First Bank of Nigeria Plc) be served within seven days of issuing the order.
On July 16, 2020, the court presided over by Hon. Justice S.I Galadima gave an ‘Order Absolute’ against the university and the bank. The garnishee bank was represented by her counsel Mrs. E. Anyanwu, a lawyer from the firm of J. I. Ogamba, who made an argument to the fact that ‘The Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Nig Ltd’ does not belong to Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, but belonged to some other investors to the surprise and disagreement of the court.
The argument did not augur well with the court, as Justice Galadima ordered that a ‘Decree Absolute’ be made against the bank to pay N37,075,558.38 over to the claimant/judgment creditor/applicant, within 48 hours in line with a 12 paragraphed counter affidavit filed in opposition to First Bank’s affidavit to show cause.
For the bank to refuse to obey the order of court, but rather moved in and decided to alter the said account, moved funds out of same and equally placed a restriction on the said account after a ‘Decree Absolute’ has been made by the court, it ordered that the Owerri Main Branch of the bank at Bank Road be sealed until it effects the order.