N5.5bn Debt: Ecobank’s Lawyer fails to Stop Oba Otudeko’s Cross-Examination
Oba Otudeko, the boss of Honeywell Group, returned to court on Wednesday for cross-examination, having been led in an examination in chief by the defense lawyer, Mr. A.O. Divine.
But, Mr. Divine who is the counsel for Ecobank Plc, in numerous attempt, tried to stop the cross-examination.
Mr. Divine had informed the court of his intention to bring Mr. Otudeko as his first witness and consequently subpoena the Honeywell boss.
Mr. Otudeko then appeared in court on February 8, to give evidence in relation to the indebtedness of his companies- Honeywell Groups and its sister affiliates Anchorage Leisures Ltd and Siloam Global Ltd.
Ecobank’s lawyer went ahead to examine the witness but chose not to adopt the testimony of his witness.
At the hearing today, he then opposed to having, Wole Olanipekun, counsel to the plaintive, from cross-examining Mr. Otudeko.
He argued that having not adopted the testimony of the witness, the plaintive has nothing to cross-examine on.
Mr. Olanipekun who is representing Oba Otudeko’s companies opposed the defense argument on the ground that it is the right of the plaintive to cross-examine the witness.
He added that the only instance a witness cannot be cross-examined is if he had come to tender documents.
Justice Mohammed Idris, the presiding judge, overruled the objection, stating that Mr. Divine can choose to conduct his case as he pleases but he cannot deny the plaintive of his right to cross-examine the witness.
Ecobank’s lawyer had earlier objected to a line of questioning which was, today, overruled by the presiding judge.
Mr. Olanipekun made repeated efforts at cross-examining Mr. Otudeko to prove that Ecobank’s managing director was present at a meeting where it was agreed that his client’s company would pay N3.5 billion out of the N5.5 billion debt allegedly owed the bank as “full and final payment of the indebtedness.”
But Ecobank’s lawyer continued to insist that a witness whose statement was not adopted in court could not be cross-examined.
Upon being overruled by the judge in a short ruling read during the hearing today, Mr. Divine came up with another attempt.
He argued that the Honeywell boss cannot be cross-examined at all giving that his Testimony-in-Chief was never adopted but that also was a dead end as the judge ruled against him.
Prior to that, Mr. Divine had sought for an adjournment on the premise that there is an application for stay on proceeding before the court of appeal.
In canvassing his position, he said the lower court is duty bound to adjourn proceeding until the court of appeal decides the stay on proceeding application one way or the other.
He referred the judge to earlier judgments made in similar situations, adding that the court cannot reprobate and approbate at the same time.
This again was opposed by Mr. Olanipekun and subsequently quashed by the judge.
The presiding judge held that it is indeed the law for the lower court to adjourn in the case where an appeal will affect a case is in the appeal court but he did not grant the defense application because the copies of the appeal court processes and proceedings before him are not certified.
The judge also said that there is an expedite order from the appeal court, adding that until there is an express order saying otherwise, the matter would continue.
After series of attempts and roadblocks, Mr. Olanipekun cross-examined the witness.
During the cross-examination, Mr. Otudeko confirmed that Ecobank’s managing director was present at a meeting where it was agreed that his Mr. Otudeko’s company would pay N3.5 billion out of the N5.5 billion debt allegedly owed the bank as “full and final payment of the indebtedness.”
The judge consequently adjourned March 12 and 16, 2018 for further hearing.
During today’s Chief Otudeko didn’t make any elaborate effort to shield himself from the media as he embarrassingly did during the last hearing.