Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, and Ezinwa Unuigboje, the Bank Secretary, were sentenced to six weeks in prison by a Magistrate Court in Ogba, Lagos State, for disobeying a garnishee order preventing the bank from granting a judgment debtor access to his account.
Magistrate Lateef Owolabi issued the sentence in response to a garnishee order he issued on December 6, 2022, requesting that 16 banks deny a judgment debtor, Prince Enabulele Ozaze, access to his bank accounts pending the payment of a N2.8 million judgment debt in a suit involving the sale of a Toyota Corolla car.
According to him, liquidated demand is one that can be calculated with arithmetic precision without further investigation.
He then said:
I, the Chief Magistratee Court at Ogba, Lagos has sentenced examined the whole process filed by the claimant and hold that the claimant is entitled to judgment not necessarily because the defendant is absent, but because the claimant has made a case worthy of being entitled to judgment. The totalities of evidence presented are relevant and reliable.
The magistrate then entered judgment against the defendant for N2.8 million, which is owed to the claimant for the transaction that occurred in July 2022.
To reap the benefits of the judgment, the claimant’s lawyer, Alayo Akanbi, filed a garnishe proceeding before the court, attached 17 banks, and asked the court to prevent the defendant from drawing money from his accounts with them until the debt was liquidated.
On December 6, 2022, the garnishee order was granted.
However, on January 25, 2023, the claimant, now a judgment creditor, deposed to an affidavit before the court, demonstrating that Fidelity Bank had violated the garnishee order.
He claimed that as of January 12, 2023, when the garnishe order was served on the bank, the judgment debtor had N3, 165, 759.05k in his account with Fidelity Bank.
Three days after service, on January 15, the judgment debtor had withdrawn N725,547.80k from the account. Another N251,305.90 was transferred out of the bank the following day, January 16, 2023. Obianuju Nwosu, the bank’s legal officer, confirmed service on the bank as of December 22, 2022 and apologized for the transactions on the account on January 17.
On January 18, 2023, the court ordered that the Managing Director and Company Secretary appear in person before the court to explain why they should not be imprisoned for allowing the judgment debtor to disburse funds in his account after the garnishe order nisi was served.
The Managing Director and Company did not appear in court on Monday, February 6, as ordered. The judgment creditor’s lawyer explained to the court how the two had disobeyed the court’s garnishee order.
In his ruling, Magistrate Owolabi sentenced the Managing Director and Company Secretary to six weeks in prison each.
He also directed the Lagos State Commissioner of Police and any officer under his command to arrest the duo and transport them to court for transfer to the appropriate correctional facility.