Supreme Court admits registry’s error, reverses N2.4bn ruling against GTBank

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The Supreme Court has reversed its earlier decision which dismissed an appeal filed by Guaranty Trust Bank 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 unanimously held 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 apex court held that it was misled by its registry, which failed to promptly bring to the notice of the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019 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 held that if the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019 was notified of the existence of the appellant’s brief of argument, it 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 Abubakar held that the circumstances of the GTB case falls 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.

He said, “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 February 27, 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 February 27, 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.

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 this court until its hearing and determination on the merit.”

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