For causing the illegal detention of a school proprietor, Henry Odunayo, a Lagos State High Court has awarded N5 million as damages against the management of First Bank Nigeria Plc.
Kazeem Alogba, the judge, in his ruling on Tuesday, December 18, in the matter with suit number; ID/803/201313 between Mr Odunayo, Olufunmilayo Odunayo, and First Bank of Nigeria Plc. and Lagos State Commissioner of Police also awarded another N250,000 in cost in favour of Mr Odunayo for what the judge described as compensation for expenses incurred while the trial lasted.
But the bank’s spokesperson, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said she was not yet aware of the judgement.
She, however, said she was sure the financial institution would pursue the matter to a logical conclusion.
Mr Odunayo, who is the proprietor and chairman of Topmost International School, Ipaja, Lagos State, had, according to his lawyer, Femi Agbaje, taken a loan of N24 million from the bank in 2012 but there was controversy over repayment schedule.
Mr Agbaje said following the controversy that ensued over the schedule of payment and accruable interests, rather than abiding by the resolution reached at meetings held with the financial institution’s management, the bank used the police to “harass and intimidate his client, and forcefully detained him in 2013”.
“The plaintiff had discovered an excess charge of about N3 million and First Bank agreed. Two days before an agreed date to hold a meeting for settlement in September 2013, some bank officials visited my client with armed police officers and subjected him to harassment including illegal detention.
“But we are surprised by the bank’s self-help method because the loan was collateralised. One of his properties was used as a collateral for the loan. It is a legal mortgage that is collateralised and the best the bank could have done if my client had flouted any rule was to approach law court to seek an order to confiscate the property.
“My client was paying back the loan on a monthly basis and has since liquidated the whole loan as far back as 2015.”
Mr Agbaje described the judgment as well deserved, saying it took his client five years to right the wrongs.
“As far as I am concerned the judgment is well deserved and merited, and the bank has 90 days to appeal, whether it wants to comply or not.”
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Ms Ani-Mumuney on Tuesday, she promised to check with the bank’s legal department “to know the true status of the matter”.
She also promised to call back in less than an hour but did not.
More than 24 hours after, the reporter called again but another person picked the call, saying the spokesperson was attending a meeting.