The legal dispute between Honeywell Flour Mills and Ecobank has been a subject of significant attention within the business community for almost a decade, with the Federal High Court in Ikoyi providing a new chapter to the story by awarding a staggering N72.2 billion in damages against Ecobank on Tuesday, July 18, 2023.
This case started when Ecobank obtained ex-parte orders from the Federal High Court, led by Hon. Justice Yunusa, in November 2015 to freeze Honeywell Flour Mills’ assets, including its bank accounts.
Honeywell Flour Mills immediately applied to have the orders lifted, with the court then varying the orders, allowing the company limited access to its accounts. In 2016, on HFMP’s appeal, the Appellate Court fully overturned the ex-parte orders, restoring Honeywell Flour Mills’ right to operate its accounts. In its ruling, the Court of Appeal concluded that Ecobank’s request to freeze the assets by an ex parte order was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court subsequently upheld the Court of Appeal’s judgement.
Following the Supreme Court pronouncement, the company sought to enforce the oath sworn by Ecobank that it would indemnify HFMP of any loss suffered if the ex-parte orders were deemed frivolous.
Ecobank attempted to argue against enforcement, however, in the judgment by Justice Liman at the Federal High Court, on Tuesday, he stated that: “The defendant’s arguments in this regard cannot stand.…….I have no hesitation in granting relief in favour of the plaintiff.”
Respected lawyer, Bode Olanipekun, SAN, commended the court stating that – “it’s a commendable decision and precedent in an area of our jurisprudence that has been scarcely tested. The court has awarded damages in a claim brought on the premise of an undertaking given for the grant of ex parte orders which both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have found were improperly sought and granted.”