The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has set aside the judgment of a Lagos State High Court, which ordered Zenith Bank to pay N2.5 billion to Real Integrated & Hospitality Limited for 11 years the bank allegedly held the customer’s N872, 780, 552.84 illegally.
A three-man panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice Muhammed Sirajo in Appeal No:CA/LAG/CV/262/2022 filed by Zenith Bank Plc. against Real Integrated & Hospitality Limited, and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Gombe State, upturned the judgment of the lower court delivered by Justice O. O. Abike-Fadipe.
Justice Abike-Fadipe had on March 8, 2022, held the bank was in breach of contract because on October 7, 2011, it refused Real Integrated to draw from its Account No. 1012465427.
He also directed the bank to pay interest of 15 per cent per annum on the N872,780,522.84 from May 17, 2011, when the advanced payment guarantees expired till judgment and thereafter at the rate of 10 per cent per annum until final liquidation.
It further awarded N2,500,000 as cost of the action in favour of Real Integrated.
Dissatisfied, Zenith Bank challenged the decision through its Lawyers, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, (SAN) and Mr. Sylva Ogwemoh (SAN), and urged the court to allow its appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court.
The bank sought an order setting aside the lower court decision on the ground that it acted in full compliance with its contractual obligations in line with the Advanced Payment Guarantee (APG) contract and that the trial court was wrong.
Responding, Counsel to the 1st Respondent, Mr. E.O Jakpa, argued that the bank breached the contract while SUBEB, Gombe State, did not contest the appeal.
The Court of Appeal in a unanimous decision delivered on November 23, aligned with the bank’s submission and resolved all the issues in its favour.
Consequently, the appellate court set aside the judgment of Justice Abike-Fadipe and awarded cost of N200,000 against Real Integrated & Hospitality Limited and in favour of the Zenith Bank.
The court based its decision on the ground that the trial court was wrong to have presumed that the bank withheld the full account statement of Real Integrated in the light of Exhibit C6 (the comprehensive Statement of Account of Real Integrated), which was tendered by the bank for a limited purpose, adding that there was no need for the lower court to have invoked Section 167 (d) of the Evidence Act, 2011 against the bank.