The Supreme Court has backtracked on its earlier ruling which dismissed Guaranty Trust Bank’s (GTB) appeal against a N2.4 billion judgment in favour of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited.
The apex court set aside the ruling, while delivering a judgment in an application by GTB seeking the re-listing of the appeal on the grounds that it was erroneously dismissed.
Reversing itself on Friday, the apex court relied on Order 8 Rules 16 of the Supreme Court’s Rules that empowers it to set aside its decision in certain circumstances, like any other court.
Specifically, the five-member panel, led by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, in a unanimous decision, held that the apex court erred in its ruling of February 27, 2019, wherein it erroneously dismissed GTB’s appeal with number: SC/694/2014 against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The apex court, in the lead judgment written by Justice Tijani Abubakar, but read by Justice Abdu Aboki, claimed that it was misled by its Registry, which failed to promptly bring to the notice of the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, that GTB had already filed its appellant’s brief of argument.
The apex court noted that had the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, been notified of the existence of the appellant’s brief of argument, it would not have given the ruling which dismissed GTB’s appeal on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.
The apex court justices explained that the court has powers to reverse itself where there is any reason to do so, especially where any of the parties had obtained judgment by fraud, default or deceit; where such a decision is a nullity or where it is obvious that the court was misled into giving a decision.
According to the judgment, the circumstances of the GTB case falls into the category of the rare cases where the Supreme Court could amend or alter its own order on the grounds that the said order or judgment did not present what it intended to record.
“I am convinced that at the material time that the appellant’s appeal was inadvertently dismissed by this court, there was in place, a valid and subsisting brief of argument filed by the applicant.
“It will be unjust to visit the sin of the court’s Registry on an innocent, vigilant, proactive and diligent litigant.
“It is obvious from the material before us, that there were errors committed by the Registry of this court, having failed to bring to the notice of the panel of Justices that sat in chambers on February 27, 2019, that the appellant had indeed filed its brief of argument.
“This is a case deserving of positive consideration by this court.
“Having gone through all the materials in this application, therefore, I am satisfied that the appellant/applicant’s brief of argument was filed before the order of this court made on February 27, 2019, dismissing the applicant’s appeal.
“The order dismissing the appeal was therefore made in error. It ought not to have been made if all materials were disclosed. The application is, therefore, meritorious and hereby succeeds,” the apex court held.
He proceeded to set aside the court’s ruling of February 27, 2019, dismissing GTB’s appeal and ordered that the appeal marked: 694/2014 “be relisted to constitute an integral part of the business of this court until its hearing and determination on the merit”.
Other members of the panel are John Okoro and Helen Ogunwumiju.