Court Orders Ecobank To Pay Honeywell N72.2bn, After Eight-year Battle

Following its eight years legal battle with Ecobank Nigeria, Honeywell Flour Mills (HFMP) has been awarded N72.2 billion in damages by Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Justice Liman, who presided over the case, granted the requests of Honeywell Flour against Ecobank on Tuesday in the legal battle that started after the lender refused the manufacturer access to its accounts in 2015.

Honeywell Flour’s accounts were frozen in November 2015 when Ecobank secured an ex parte order, which was granted on the condition that the financial institution will compensate the former for harm or loss caused by the action.

Ecobank had shut Honeywell Flour out of their accounts in an attempt to wind up the latter over an alleged outstanding debt owed by the manufacturer.

Ecobank had alleged Honeywell Group, former owner of Honeywell Flour, owes the company N13.5 billion, as outstanding debt.

The lender has also moved to block Oba Otudeko, Honeywell Group’s founder, from becoming the largest shareholder of FBN Holdings in a bid to recover the alleged debt.

Meanwhile, due to the losses Honeywell Flour claimed following the freezing of its company account, Justice Liman ordered Ecobank to pay the company N72.2 billion in damages.

The damage fee is 23 per cent of Ecobank’s first quarter turnover in 2023 when the company generated N313.17 billion.

Loss of revenue and interest on unutilised cash balances are some of the reasons claimed to have caused the losses. Also listed are foreign exchange devaluation, aggravated and exemplary damages.

Liman told the parties involved in the case that: “The plaintiff was denied the use of funds in his account based on the ex parte order granted in favour of the defendant. It is therefore my firm view that the plaintiff (Honeywell) is entitled to the amount claimed… The argument of the defendant in his written address is therefore not acceptable as the contents of the document are the best evidence and they speak for themselves.”

The judge also condemned Ecobank’s lawyer for being ignorant of the law relating to the ex parte order, “the purpose of an undertaking to pay damages has been held in a legion of cases to indemnify the party for the losses he may suffer on the bases of an ex parte order.

“Note that Rule 4 of the Winding Up Rules provides that all applications which affect the rights of parties in a winding-up proceeding must be made on notice.

“The provisions of the winding up rules are very clear and unambiguous. The defendant cannot claim ignorance of this provision as ignorance of the law is no excuse and it is even more inexcusable if it is committed by a lawyer. The ex parte application was therefore made ultra vires,” he said.