The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered the accounts of the Independent National Electoral Commission with the Central Bank of Nigeria to be blocked over the commission’s alleged refusal to pay a judgment debt of N17.258bn to a creditor.
The court also ordered the Federal Ministry of Finance to, in the interim, withhold funds meant for INEC, but yet to be disbursed.
Justice John Tsoho made the order in a ruling following an ex parte application by Bedding Holdings Limited in the garnishee proceedings it instituted to enforce the judgment delivered in its favour on January 28, 2014.
The Monday’s orders are to subsist till November 8, when both the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Finance (the two respondents to the garnishee proceedings) are to appear in court to show cause why the orders blocking INEC’s access to its funds should not be made absolute.
If the court grants an order of garnishee absolute, it implies ordering both the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Finance to immediately pay the applicant directly the total judgment sum of about N17bn from INEC’s accounts.
Justice Tsoho had on May 24, 2018, made a similar order of temporary blockage of INEC’s accounts upon hearing the former ex parte application moved on behalf of the applicant by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).
But, while moving the ex parte motion for ‘garnishee nisi’ on Monday, another of Bedding Holding Limited’s lawyer, Mr James Odibah, urged the court to strike out the May 24, 2018 order, which he said was made against parties wrongly joined as respondents in the garnishee proceedings.
Odiba said, “We shall be asking this honourable court for the withdrawal of our earlier ex parte order of this court dated May 24, 2018.
“The reason for this is that in our earlier motion we brought parties.
“In line with the new policy of TSA (Treasury Single Account), those parties were not the proper parties.
“This motion is supported by a 39-para affidavit sworn to by Dr Sylvester Osadolor Odigee, the Group Executive Chairman of the applicant.
“Attached to the motion, are nine exhibits. We humbly rely on the exhibits.
“We urge your lordship to strike out our earlier ex parte motion and the order granted on May 24, 2018, which is still subsisting.
“My lord, this is to ensure that all the relevant parties are brought to court.
“We have removed all the impediments to the granting of this motion by withdrawing our earlier motion.”
Ruling, Justice Tsoho said, on the basis of the information “furnished the court” by the applicant via the ex parte motion dated and filed on September 26, 2018, “the prayers sought therein are granted.”
One of the six prayers sought by the applicant included “a garnishee order nisi attaching all money, including, but not limited to foreign accounts attached to current accounts of the 1st judgment debtor in the possession of the garnishees/respondents (CBN and Federal Ministry of Finance) bearing the name of the 1st judgment debtor (INEC).”
The Federal High Court had on January 28, 2014, gave a judgment against INEC, its Chairman, the Attorney General of the Federation and three others in a suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/816/2010, filed by BHL.
Other defendants in the suit were Haier Electrical Appliances Corporation Limited, Zinox Technologies Limited and Avante International Limited, who were contractors to INEC, engaged to supply equipment that it deployed for voters’ registration prior to the 2011 elections.
BHL had filed the suit, accusing INEC, the Chairman of INEC, and other defendants of infringing on its exclusive “Patent Rights “No: RP16642 and Copyrights Design No: RD13841 in and over Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes (ECTBB) and Patent Rights No: NG/P/2010/202 – Proof of Address System/Scheme (PASS) – Embedded with the Concept of the Coded Metal Plate.”
The firm claimed that the inventions, which its exclusive patent and copyright covered, were deployed by INEC and the other defendants “for the production of voters’ register for the 2011 general elections, among other elections, without its prior licence, consent and authorisation.”
In a judgment on January 28, 2014, the then Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, agreed with BHL’s claims and granted all its declaratory and monetary prayers against the defendants.
Justice Auta ordered among others, that BHL “is entitled to 50 per cent of the total contract sum of N34, 517,640,000.00, (which is N17,258,820,000.00) being the minimum reasonable royalty accruable to the plaintiff for the production, procurement, supply, acquisition, importation, purchase, receipt, sale of the Direct Data Capturing Machine, laptops and/or any other equipment ancillary to, or associated with the process and application of the said products for the registration of voters and or the collation/compilation and production of the voters’ register for the 2011 general elections.”