First Bank of Nigeria (FirstBank) says the contempt order served on Ibukun Awosika, its chairman, and Adesola Adeduntan, managing director (pictured), is not valid.
On June 6, Ibrahim Buba, a judge of the Lagos division of the federal high court, ordered the bank to pay Ogoni community in Rivers state N122 billion bond guaranteed on behalf of Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC).
The N122 billion bond is in respect of a June 2010 lawsuit against SPDC in an oil spill suit launched by Ejama community in Ogoniland, Rivers state.
But in a statement on Sunday, the bank said the order could “not hold water” because it was not a party to the suit.
“FirstBank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) was not a party to the suit and earlier order of Honourable Justice I.N Buba dated 14th June 2010 in respect of which His Lordship has now committed the Board Members of FirstBank for contempt,” the statement read.
“In view of the fact that FirstBank and its board members were not parties to the earlier orders of Honourable Justice Buba, over which he subsequently assumed jurisdiction in respect of contempt outside the face of the court, and His Lordship’s earlier orders did not direct either FirstBank or its board members to perform any obligation, neither did it impose any task on FirstBank, suffice to say that FirstBank did not and could not have disobeyed any order made by Honourable Justice I.N Buba in Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/231/2001 Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara & 9 Ors. V. Shell Petroleum Development Ltd, Shell International Petroleum Ltd and Shell International Exploration and Production BV (Shell) made on 14th June 2010, since there was no order made against it.”
The bank assured its customers of its resolve to continue providing “first-class service”.
“In the face of constant, persistent and unprovoked use of judicial processes to intimidate, harass and threaten the bank, it has decided to remain calm, steadfast and unflinching in its resolve to continue to provide first-class services to its teeming customers within and outside the country,” the statement read.
“FirstBank further asserts that it will always defend its interests within the ambit of the law and seek redress for any temporary injustice done to it.
“The bank is not aware and has not been advised as to the provision of any law in Nigeria which allows the use of criminal contempt to enforce monetary judgements or obligations.”