Court Dismisses Suit against CBN on Polaris Bank Sale

Wale Igbintade

A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday dismissed a suit filed by human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) challenging a purported sale of Polaris Bank

Justice Lewis Allagoa dismissed the suit following an application by Falana, seeking to discontinue the suit before the court.

The fiery lawyer had instituted the action in suit FHC/l/CS/87c/23, against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Polaris Bank Nigeria Ltd.

In his originating summons, the plaintiff had asked the court to determine as follows:

“Whether by the provisions of section 42(2) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 2020, and Public Procurement Act, 2007, the CBN could validly sell Polaris bank for N50 billion having earlier revitalized same for N1.3 trillion .

Falana had consequently, sought a declaration, that the purported sale of Polaris bank by CBN on Oct. 19, 2022, is illegal and violates the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

He stated that the purported sale also violates the provisions of the Banks and Other Related Institutions Act 2020.

The plaintiff had consequently, sought an order, setting aside the sale of Polaris Bank .

When the case was called  yesterday Falana announced appearance for himself as both plaintiff and counsel appearing for himself .

Mr Augustine Okafor appeared for the first defendant while Mr Olabisi Makanjuola, appeared for the second defendant.

Subsequently, Falana informed the court that he seeks to withdraw and discontinue the suit following a take-over of Polaris Bank by the federal government.

According to him, the federal government, having found that the sale of Polaris Bank was illegal, had decided to take over the bank.

He, then sought to withdraw the suit on that grounds .

Meanwhile, defence counsel (Makanjuola) argued that since the plaintiff had commenced the action by way of originating summons for which issues had been joined by parties, he cannot seek to withdraw same.

He argued that plaintiff had not sought to file his discontinuance within 14 days of receiving the counter affidavit of the defence, adding that issues had already been joined.

Makanjuola insisted that in the circumstances, the appropriate order for the court to make is a dismissal of the suit.

Besides, he reminded the court of an earlier order awarding cost of N200,000 against the plaintiff at the last adjourned date, which had not been obeyed, contending that the plaintiff ought to first obey the court’s order .

This position was also adopted by second defence counsel.

In response, Falana pointed out that defence counsel ought to extend commendations to him, for his ability to bring such public interest case before the court in the interest of Nigerians .

Falana argued that it is the responsibility of every well meaning Nigerian to protect the interest of his country which he had done by coming to court in such a suit.

He submitted that an order of cost was not appropriate in the circumstances.

In his ruling , the court first observed that the plaintiffs suit was well intended in public interest and so, should not attract any punitive measures from the court.

The court, however, held that since issues had been joined, the appropriate order to make is a dismissal.

Justice Allagoa consequently, dismissed the suit but rescinded the cost previously awarded against the defendant.

A similar suit by the plaintiff against the Price Control Board is pending before the court.

However, when the case was called, there was no representative for the defendants.

Falana told the court that he was earlier informed by the Attorney General that he would send a representative to court but none is available as can be seen.

He consequently, sought to take a further date for the case.

The court adjourned the later suit until February 7, 2024.

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