The Court of Appeal in Abuja at the weekend ordered the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) to pay N540million damages over defamation of Prophet Emmanuel Omale and his wife, Deborah, into interest yielding bank account of the Chief Registrar of the court.
The three-man panel of the appellate court in its unanimous ruling read by a Justice of the Court of Appeal (JCA), Justice Mohammed Shuaibu, further directed FCMB to deposit the said N540million with the Court Registrar’s account within 48 hours.
The Court of Appeal made the order in the Certified True Copy of its Enrolled Order dated February 2, 2024 and obtained on Sunday, February 4, 2024.
The appellate court gave the directive while granting conditional stay of execution on the payment of the said N540million damages, pending the determination of the FCMB’s appeal in the matter.
The FCMB has appealed against the judgement of Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja, asking the Court of Appeal to set aside the verdict of the lower court on the payment of N540million damages.
The FCMB is further asking the appellate court to stay execution of the lower court’s judgment and restrain the Omales from taking steps to enforce the judgment in their favour. However, after listening to the arguments of the parties, the Court of Appeal directed in its enrolled order as follows:
1. The application is granted as prayed in terms of the 1st prayer in the Appellant’s motion filed on 3/11/2022.
2. 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.
3. Appeal is adjourned to a date to be communicated to Counsel by the Registry”.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the FCT High Court, the FCMB through his lead lawyer, Dr Wale Olawoyin (SAN), filed a Notice of Appeal dated October 5, 2022 against the Final Judgment. In the its Notice of Appeal, the FCMB raised serious constitutional and other weighty legal issues, saying that it would be highly prejudiced by any step(s) to execute or enforce the Final Judgment as the action would render nugatory, its appeal before the appellate court. According to the FCMB, “there is a real and high risk that it would suffer irreparable damage in the event that its application is refused and the appeal is successful.”
Opposing the FCMB’s motion for stay of execution of the lower court’s judgment, the Omales, through their lawyers, Chief Goddy Uche (SAN) and Kanayo Okafor, argued that the bank’s application was brought in utmost bad faith to merely frustrate and delay without any justification, the enjoyment of the fruits of the judgment in their favours.
The Omales said, “That the judgment Appellant/Applicant’s appeal has little or no chance of success in the light of the admissions and apologies and tacit acceptance of its negligence in this
“That in the alternative, we concede to a conditional stay of execution, for the Appellant/Applicant to deposit the judgment sum within 48 hours into an interest yielding bank account to be opened by the Chief Registrar of this Honourable Court, in any other commercial bank, except the judgment/debtor.”
Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court had on October 4, 2022, ordered the FCMB to pay N540.5 million damages to Prophet Omale of the Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry and his wife, Deborah, over false claim that they laundered N573 million for the former Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), AIG Ibrahim Magu (rtd). In his judgment over the suit by Omale and other claimants against the FCMB, Justice Halilu held that the bank breached its “duty of care to the claimants,” the Omales and their church.
The judgment was on the suit marked: FCT/HC/CV2541/2020 filed by Omale, his wife and the church. The judge held that the evidence before the court showed that the bank admitted error in its report to the NFIU of entries in the account of Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry which was accused of laundering money on Magu’s behalf.
Justice Halilu further held 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.
The judge also held that FCMB admitted the error, which brought incalculable damage to the reputation of the claimants both within and outside the Nigeria – depleting their church’s membership.
Justice Halilu said the claimants provided sufficient evidence to establish case of negligence against FCMB.
Consequently, the judge awarded N200 million as aggravated damages; N140.5 million as specific damages and N200 million as general damages.
During the investigation of Magu by a Presidential Investigation Committee on the EFCC Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances from May 2015 to May 2020, it was alleged that an investigation by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) revealed that Magu, who is now retired from the police, paid N573 million into Omale’s church’s account.
It further alleged that the funds were used to purchase property for him in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Magu was also facing a barrage of similar allegations of a presidential investigative panel led by a former President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Ayo Salami.
It is instructive to note that former President Muhammad Buhari refused to release the report of any of the panels to enable the public to have first-hand information about Magu’s alleged culpability or otherwise in the charge and many others levelled against him.
The Salami-led panel, which conducted its months-long hearing in secrecy, is believed to have been influenced by the former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to get Magu out of office over crisis of confidence and wide differences they shared on diverse issues.
Magu, who was suspended as Acting Chairman of the EFCC in the wake of the probe by Salami’s panel, was never recalled or held accountable for any infraction after the panel submitted its report to Buhari.
The other panel, titled, ‘Final Report of the Presidential Investigation Committee on the EFCC Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances from May 2015 to May 2020,’ was said to be headed by Abdullahi Ibrahim, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
It claimed that Magu, through a pastor named Omale, had been laundering public funds to foreign countries.
“As an unknown pastor, the NFIU’s report showed the huge movement of funds ranging from N573, 228,040.41,” the report claimed.
The report further delved into other allegations against Magu including- failing to cooperate with foreign authorities over probe on former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, and circulation of disproportionate figures on recovered loot.
The report also accused Magu of allegedly failing to properly account for a recovered N551 billion by the EFCC while he was its acting chairman.
The report featured prominently in the course of the defamation hearing filed by the Omales to clear their names.
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