By Henry Ojelu
Telecoms firm, Airtel Networks Limited has lost an appeal against a N4.888,434,208 judgment debt secured against it by telephony products and services distributor, Plus Limited at a Lagos High Court.
Plus Ltd had dragged Airtel before the lower court over the company’s alleged refusal to pay commission for services it had rendered after the termination of their contract.
After years of legal battle, Justice O.A Williams ruled in favour of Plus Limited and asked Airtel to pay the company N4.8bn being debt for the commission on services rendered.
Not satisfied with the Lagos High Court judgment, Airtel approaches the appeal court for redress.
In a lead judgment by Justice Festus Obande Ogbuinya, the Court of Appeal however dismissed Airtel’s three grounds of appeal against the lower court judgment.
In the July 24, 2020 judgment, the Court of Appeal dismissed Airtel’s contention that the suit, marked LD/487/2012, which Plus Limited filed to recover the N4.8bn debt, was statute-barred.
The appellate court also disagreed with Airtel that the Lagos High Court judge perverted justice in the matter.
Justice Ogbuinya held, “By the Gregorian calendar computation, from May 2011 to March 2012 is a period of 10 months. It cannot be gainsaid that the period of 10 months is far less than by the six years time frame decreed by the provision of Section 8 of the Limitation Law of Lagos State.”
Chiding Airtel’s lawyer, Justice Ogbuinya added, “The foregoing dissection, with due reverence, exposes the poverty of the learned appellant’s senior counsel’s dazzling argument on the stubborn issue. It is lame and cannot fly.”
Also dismissing Airtel’s contention that Justice William’s judgment was perverse, Justice Ogbuinya said, “The judgment of the lower court, which is submissive to comprehension, is not antithetical to the pleadings and evidence presented before it by the feuding parties.
“At the same time, the lower court did not import alien/foreign matters into the judgment. It utilised the evidence the parties presented before it. The finding does not, in the least, smell of any charge of perversity levelled against it by the appellant.”
Dismissing the entire legs of Airtel’s appeal, Justice Ogbuinya said, “Having resolved the three issues against the appellant, the destiny of the appeal is obvious. It is devoid of any morsel of merit and deserves the penalty of dismissal. Consequently, I dismiss this appeal. I affirm the judgment of the lower court delivered on 4th October 2016.”
Justice Ogbuinya’s judgment was consented to by Justices Ugochukwu Ogakwu and Balkisu Aliyu, who were also on the panel.
Airtel has however appealed the judgment before the Supreme Court.
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