The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Guaranty Trust Bank after it reversed its earlier decision which dismissed an appeal by GTB against a N2.4bn judgment given in favour of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited by the Court of Appeal in Ibadan, Oyo State.
A judgment delivered on Friday by a five-member panel, led by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, held unanimously that the Supreme Court erred when, in a ruling on February 27, 2019, it erroneously dismissed the appeal marked: SC/694/2014 filed by GTB.
In the lead judgment, written by Justice Tijani Abubakar, but read on Friday by Justice Abdu Aboki, the court held that it was misled by its Registry, which failed to promptly bring to the notice of the panel that it sat on the case on February 27, 2019, and that GTB had already filed its appellant’s brief of argument.
The judgment was on an application by GTB seeking the re-listing of the appeal on the grounds that it was wrongly dismissed.
The Supreme Court said the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, being notified of the existence of the appellant’s brief of argument, would not have given the ruling which dismissed GTB’s appeal on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.
Relying on Order 8 Rules 16 of the Supreme Court’s Rules, Justice Abubakar, in the lead judgment, held that the apex court has the power to set aside its decision in certain circumstances, like any other court.
He added that such circumstances include where there is any reason to do so, such as where any of the parties obtained judgment by fraud, default or deceit; where such a decision is a nullity or where it is obvious that the court was misled into giving a decision.
Justice Tijani held that the circumstances of the GTB case fall into the category of the rare cases where the Supreme Court could amend or alter its own order on the grounds that the said order or judgment did not present what it intended to record.
“I am convinced that at the material time that the appellant’s appeal was inadvertently dismissed by this court, there was in place, a valid and subsisting brief of argument filed by the applicant.
“It will be unjust to visit the sin of the court’s Registry on an innocent, vigilant, proactive and diligent litigant.
“It is obvious from the material before us, that there were errors committed by the Registry of this court, having failed to bring to the notice of the panel of Justices that sat in chambers on the 27th February 2019 that the appellant had indeed filed its brief of argument.
“This is a case deserving of positive consideration by this court. Having gone through all the materials in this application, therefore, I am satisfied that the appellant/applicant’s brief of argument was filed before the order of this court made on the 27th of February 2019 dismissing the applicant’s appeal.
“The order dismissing the appeal was therefore made in error. It ought not to have been made if all materials were disclosed. The application is, therefore, meritorious and hereby succeeds,” Justice Abubakar said.
He proceeded to set aside the court’s ruling of February 27, 2019, dismissing GTB’s appeal and ordered that the appeal marked 694/2014 “be relisted to constitute an integral part of the business of the court until its hearing and determination on the merit.”
Other members of the panel – Justices Ariwoola, John Okoro, Helen Ogunwumiju, Aboki – agreed with the lead judgment.