Defamation: Appeal Court Orders Bank to Deposit N540m in Favour of Magu’s Prophet

Defamation: Appeal Court Orders Bank to Deposit N540m in Favour of Magu’s Prophet

By Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Court of Appeal, Abuja, has ordered a bank to deposit the sum of N540 million in an interest yielding bank as a condition for hearing its appeal against the judgment of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the FCT, in a judgment on October 4, 2022, awarded the said sum against the bank for defaming a preacher, Emmanuel Omale, of the Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry and his wife, Deborah.

The court, in its judgment, had held that the bank recklessly breached the duty of care it owed to the claimants – Omale, his wife and their church – by making false claim that a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, paid N573 million into the church’s account.

Dissatisfied, the bank in 2022, appealed the judgment and asked the appellate court to “stay the execution of the judgment” pending the determination of its appeal against the judgment.

Delivering ruling in the motion for “stay” on February 1, 2024, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, presided over by Justice Muhammed Shuaibu, granted a conditional stay of the execution of the judgment by ordering the bank to pay the judgment sum of N540million into an interest-yielding account in the name of the court’s Chief Registrar.

A Certified True Copy (CTC) of the ruling dated February 2, read in part: “The application is granted as prayed in terms of the first 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.”

Meanwhile, the CTC signed by a Principal Registrar of the Court, Zainab Kassim, stated that further hearing would be on a date to be communicated to parties.

The conditional stay granted by the Court of Appeal was alternatively conceded by the respondents – Omale, his wife and the church – in their counter affidavit to the appellant’s motion, which they had actually sought to be dismissed.

The October 4 judgment by Justice Halilu was on a defamation suit marked: FCT/HC/CV2541/2020 filed by Omale, his wife and the church against the bank.
During the investigation of Magu by the Justice Isa Salami-led presidential investigation panel, it was claimed that an investigation by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) revealed that the ex-EFCC Chair paid N573 million into Omale’s church’s account with which a property was allegedly bought in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Justice Halilu, in the judgment noted that evidence before his court showed that the bank admitted error in its report, to the NFIU, of entries in Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry’s account.

The judge further noted that the bank claimed that the purported N573 million was wrongly reflected as credit entry in Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry’s account by its reporting system, which it recently upgraded.

Justice Halilu noted that the bank admitted the error, which occasioned incalculable damage to the reputation of the claimants both within and outside the country.

He held that the claimants provided sufficient evidence to establish case of negligence against the bank. Justice Halilu proceeded to award N200 million as aggravated damages; N140,500,000 as specific damages and N200 million as general damages.

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