15 January 2016

Nigeria: N19.7 Million Judgment Debt - Ex-Thisday Editor Drags Obiagbena to Appeal Court

Paul Ibe, a former Editor of Thisday Newspaper has asked the Court of Appeal, Abuja to compel the publisher of the paper, Nduka Obiagbena to pay him N19.7m judgment debt.

Ibe made the claim in a motion filed before the appellate court, a copy of which was made available to newsmen on Friday in Abuja.

In the motion, Ibe alleged that Obiagbena and his Leaders and Company Ltd., were deliberately frustrating the payment of the money awarded in his favour by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Abuja.

The NICN had in a judgment delivered on Feb. 18, 2014 awarded the N19.7m being claims of unpaid salaries and terminal benefits due to Ibe, against Obiagbena and his company.

The trial court had at the instance of the judgment creditor (Ibe), granted an order nisi (not absolute) to annex the said sum of N19.7m in accounts of Obiagbena and his companies with four banks.

The banks referred to as "Garnishee Respondents" were; Access Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Guarantee Trust Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.

The court had ruled: "That the said sum of N19.7m sitting in the judgment debtors accounts domiciled with the Garnishees aforementioned, and the sum of N200,000 being the cost of the Garnishee proceedings be attached to this Court forthwith.

"The Court further directs the four Garnishees to appear in court on May 7, 2015 to show cause why this Order Nisi should not be made absolute upon each of them for payment of the judgment creditor".

Ibe said that following the orders of the NICN, the respondents filed a Notice of Appeal dated April 30, 2015, which effectively put a stay on further action on the garnishee proceedings.

He, however, alleged that upon transmitting the records of proceeding to the court of appeal, the appellants (Obiagbena and his company) abandoned the case.

Ibe deposed in an affidavit attached to the motion that: "The appellants have neglected to file their brief of argument several months after transmission of the appeal.

"It is a fact that appellants are required by law to file their brief of argument within 45 days after transmission of records, which they have failed to do.

"The appellants neither sought nor obtained leave of this court not that of the trial court before filing the appeal".

He contended that the appeal "is frivolous and a deliberate attempt to continue to deny him the fruits of the judgment got at the trial court".

Ibe urged the court to dismiss the appeal and order Obiagbena and his company to pay him the said sum.

On the facts of the case, Ibe said he was engaged by the respondents in May 1996 and rose by way of promotion to become the Editor of Thisday newspaper.

He said in 1998, he was transferred to South Africa as the Bureau Chief of the newspaper.

Ibe said that while he was in South Africa for 19 months running the affairs of the newspaper, his employers failed to provide residential and office accommodation and perks of office.

"After completion of my job schedule in South Africa, I returned to Nigeria in 2000, feeling dissatisfied and gave them notice of my intention to resign.

"The defendants rejected my resignation and gave an approval for a sabbatical leave.

"In 2002, I was reabsorbed as an Assistant Editor with the understanding that I will be appointed Director.

"Within 12 years duration of my employment, my tax and pension deductions and terminal benefits statutorily due to me were not paid".

Meanwhile the court of appeal is yet to fix a date for the hearing of the motion.

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