By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja, yesterday refused to hear a suit challenging the closure of a private school by First Bank plc.
Counsel to the school, White Plains British School, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), yesterday, made a futile effort to convince the court to hear the matter.
According to the counsel, the summer activities of the school have been disrupted by the closure.
Justice Ojukwu, who ruled no amount of pressure would change her position, insisted that another judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Babatunde Quadri, has started hearing the matter and it was only proper for him to continue.
“The case is not on my cause list and I am not going to hear it. We have met and decided that once somebody has started hearing a case, he will continue to the end. Another Judge has started hearing this case and he will conclude it.”
While pleading with the judge to hear the case as a matter of urgency, Ume submitted that the summer activities of the school are currently disrupted as a result of the closure.
“My lord, because of the curious development on Sunday, July 8, 2018, when a school was closed against the order of the court, the court has on July 16, 2018 ordered that this matter be heard during vacation.
“Justice Quadri who made the order equally adjourned the case for today, Tuesday, July 24 for hearing. All these orders and other processes have been served on the respondents, who have filed their counter affidavits, so the case is ready for hearing today.
“Although Justice Quadri did not seat today, since your court is equally sitting as a vacation court, it is only proper that the matter be heard my lord, giving that all the parties have filed their processes and are present in court,” Ume submitted.
Responding, counsel to First Bank Plc, Soji Toki, informed the court that Justice Quadri who had adjourned the matter for today could not seat and it had been further fixed for August 8, for hearing.
The lawyer wondered why counsel to the applicants decided to come before another Judge to hear the case.
Ruling, Justice Ojukwu said “ I am not giving to too much talking. I have made my mind and there is nothing anybody can say that would make me to change my mind. I will not hear it, somebody has started it and I can’t do anything here.”
Her decision did not go down well with teachers, workers, students and parents from the school as they walk out of the courtroom dejected that a vacation judge could not hear their case.
In the suit before the court, WhitePlains British School and France Lee have asked the Federal High Court to stop First Bank Plc from taking over the administration of the school.
In addition, the school is pressing for an order directing the bank to remove all the fences it raised blocking all the gates and foot entrances to the school premises on Sunday, July 8, 2018.
In the suit filed through their counsel Chukwuma -Machukwu Ume (SAN), further prayed the court to restrained the bank and Mr. Bola Olotu from obstructing or showing physical presence in the school pending the determination of the appeal process pending at the Court of Appeal.
The suit was brought pursuant to order 26, rules 19 and 21, order 40, rule 2(1) of the High Court (civil procedure) rules 2009.
In a further and better affidavit of urgency filed in support of the motion, the dependent, Genevieve Okereke, averred that the respondents embarked on the illegal action two weeks ago while forcefully attempting to take over the school under the guise of staged loan default.
She told the court that First bank officials , Mr. Bola Olotu (Receiver), some armed police officers and masons on Sunday , July 8, 2018 chased out staff of the elites school worth over N6bn from the school premises in Jabi district of Abuja.
According to the affidavit, the respondents went to work and sealed the two entrances and two foot paths with blocks while trying to enforce a N630m loan default judgment which the school claimed was obtained through a forged document.
The school told the court that the Tripartite Legal Mortgage which the bank used in misleading the court to grant their prayers was forged as the school never entered a tripartite agreement with the bank.