Unity Bank Plc has been dragged before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court by Bulet International (Nig) Ltd over a N100 billion libel suit.
The first plaintiff is an internationally acclaimed building and civil engineering construction company, while the second plaintiff is its Chief Executive, Alhaji Isma’ila Isa, who is a former minister of water resources and ex-president of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN).
Trouble, it was gathered, started when in 2013, Unity Bank commenced debt recovery action against Bulet at the FCT High Court and the case was dismissed on 24th February, 2014 for lack of reasonable cause of action by the court.
While the said suit was still pending, Unity Bank, through its Lawyer, I. H. Yamah, wrote letters to Bulet’s tenants and clients, including the Federal Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Australian and American Embassies as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conveying an auction sale notice (threatening to sell the property being occupied by the tenants).
The plaintiffs said the defamatory publications were false, malicious and baseless and calculated to mislead the public.
In the said letters, Unity Bank alleged that it loaned the plaintiff N6.856 billion, adding that the bank was in possession of perfected legal mortgage over the landed properties occupied by the tenants, warning them not to have any commitments to their landlord.
The Bank, in 2014, further instituted another suit, which was still pending in court and being challenged by Bulet for non-disclosure of reasonable cause of action, in which ruling has been fixed for February 2015.
The plaintiffs said that while awaiting the ruling, the bank went ahead again to publish public notices and articles in numerous newspapers as well as on its Internet outlets, specifically addressed to the CBN containing list of alleged debtors, of which the plaintiff’s names were added.
According to the plaintiffs, the letters, newspaper reports and public notices by the bank were meant to convey that the plaintiffs are bankrupt and irresponsible and took the bank’s credit facility with intent to defraud the bank.
The plaintiffs said that the letters and public notices were understood by the public that Unity Bank gave N6.8 billion credit facilities and was in custody of perfected mortgage instruments, which exposed the plaintiffs’ tenants to auction sale of their home and offices.
According to the plaintiffs, in a 17-paragraph statement of claim, “the defamatory publications are false, malicious, baseless and calculated to mislead the public while injuring the reputation of the 1st plaintiff brought the 2nd plaintiff into scandal and ridicule his character as a statesman.”
The plaintiffs stressed that the bank never granted them any N6.8 billion credit facility as alleged.
As at the time of filing in this report, Unity Bank was yet to file a defence and efforts at getting the bank to comment on the matter proved abortive.